Indian scientists harness piezoelectric property of fish scales biowaste to produce energy

Breakthrough: Indian researchers convert fish scale biowaste to produce energy

In a breakthrough, Indian researchers have made a remarkable device that converts fish byproducts into an energy harvester for self-powered electronics. Indians consume large quantities of fish everyday which also generates large amount of biowaste and scientists have recycled these wastes to produce a clean form of energy.

The process has double benefits, not only it reduces wastes but also produces energy that does not pollute the environment. Fish scales contain collagen fibers possess a piezoelectric property and by applying mechanical stress scientists can generate the electric charge. Researchers harnessed this property of fish scales to fabricate a bio-piezoelectric nanogenerator.

Initially, researchers needed a large pool of biowaste from fish scales which they collected from the fish market. Then, scientists made fish scales transparent and flexible by applying a process called demineralisation.

“We were able to make a bio-piezoelectric nanogenerator – a.k.a. energy harvester – with electrodes on both sides, and then laminated it,” said  Dipankar Mandal, assistant professor, Organic Nano-Piezoelectric Device Laboratory, Department of Physics, at Jadavpur University. “We wanted to explore what happens to the piezoelectric yield when a bunch of collagen nanofibrils are hierarchically well aligned and self-assembled in the fish scales,” he added. “And we discovered that the piezoelectricity of the fish scale collagen is quite large (~5 pC/N), which we were able to confirm via direct measurement.”

Mandal and his team near-edge X-ray absorption fine-structure spectroscopy to explore the fish scale collagen’s self-alignment phenomena. In theory, the concept worked fine and produced energy. To confirm researchers conducted experiments in  Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology in Indore and found that we can use fish scales to produce energy for seld-powered flexible electronics.

“In the future, our goal is to implant a bio-piezoelectric nanogenerator into a heart for pacemaker devices, where it will continuously generate power from heartbeats for the device’s operation,” Mandal said.

“Then it will degrade when no longer needed. Since heart tissue is also composed of collagen, our bio-piezoelectric nanogenerator is expected to be very compatible with the heart.”

Moreover, the research team aims at engineering electronics made of nontoxic materials that will be used for diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

The study appeared in the Applied Physics Letters.

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