Graphene, a sheet of carbon just one atom thick, is used for everything from cooling cell phone batteries to contactless key cards to making ink. Now researchers at the University of Alabama have proposed to use it as a power generator.
Sheets of graphene ripple at room temperature as heat affects the microscopically thin material – an example of what physicists call “Brownian motion.”
The Alabama scientists first discovered that graphene’s Brownian buckling produced an AC electric current, something that was thought to be impossible. The researchers then placed a diode, or electrical gate, at each end of a circuit containing graphene. The diodes converted the AC current to DC, the kind of current that batteries produce.
The diodes also continually reverse the current back and forth through the graphene, an effect that amplifies the current.
TRENDPOST: The discovery points to a future in which chips laden with graphene could replace batteries in cellphones, flashlights, and other devices. The Alabama work also disproves famed physicist Richard Feynman’s assertion that Brownian motion can’t be harvested for practical use.

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