A team of researchers at Jadavpur University in Koltata, India has found a unique way to utilize the huge amount of fish "bio-waste" materials that the country produces. The team has explored a solution through which one can recycle fish byproducts into an energy harvester, which can further be used for self-powered electronic devices.

[box]In above image - Waste fish scales (upper left corner) are used to fabricate flexible nanogenerator (lower left) that power up more than 50 blue LEDs (lower right). An enlarged microscopic view of a fish scale shows the well-aligned collagen fibrils (upper right). The possibility of making a fish scale transparent (middle) and rollable (extreme left lower corner) is also illustrated. Credit: Sujoy Kuman Ghosh and Dipankar Mandal/Jadavpur University.[/box]

Fish scales are known to have collagen fibers that contain piezoelectric properties, which when stressed produced a charge. Putting this theory to practice, the team started by collecting a large volume of fish scales from a fish processing market and then progressed to making them flexible and transparent via a demineralisation process. After this, the researchers played around with the hierarchical alignment of the treated fish scales and finally ended up pumping up the energy yield of the scales and giving life to a bio-piezoelectric nanogenerator.

The team was successful in creating a bio-piezoelectric nanogenerator also known as a energy harvester—with electrodes present on both sides.

While it is a well-known fact that a single collagen nanofiber exhibits piezoelectricity, it is only now that someone has made an effort to work on organising the collagen nanofibrils in hierarchical manner within the natural fish scales.

The nanogenerator is capable of scavenging several types of mechanical energies present in our surroundings such as the wind flow, body movements, and machine and sound vibrations etc. When repeatedly touched with a finger, the bio-piezoelectric nanogenerator produces electricity sufficient to light up to 50 LEDs.

The nanogenerator can prove to big step forward in the department of self-powered flexible electronics, which in the near future, can be successfully developed into products like biodegrade pacemakers that get energized by the person's own heartbeats. While, of course, it can also be used in transparent and portable electronics department, but the biocompatibility part makes a strong case for the tech to be put to use for medical purposes such as in vitro and in vivo diagnostics, edible devices and e-healthcare monitoring etc.

The bio-piezoelectric nanogenerator could also provide a helping hand in targeted drug delivery, which has nowadays caught everyone's attention as a recovery method in vivo cancer cells and for also being able to stimulate various different types of damaged tissues.

In the near future, the team aims to meet its end goal of successfully designing and engineering sophisticated ingestible electronics composed of nontoxic materials, which can be used for a number of diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

[box]More information: "Bio-Piezoelectric Nanogenerator Made with Fish Scale," Sujoy Kuman Ghosh and Dipankar Mandal, Applied Physics Letters, September 6, 2016. DOI: 10.1063/1.4961623[/box]

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