Biosensors that monitor cancer in the body and pathogens in water are one step closer to realization, after experiments revealed a newly efficient microscopic power supply. The sensors themselves have already been engineered in tiny dimensions, but power has been the sticking point, Technology Review reports. New nanogenerators could power the sensors using blood flow, muscle contractions, even acoustic waves.
Nanogenerators—nanowires that make electricity from mechanical energy—had previously been made from zinc oxide; the latest breakthrough uses barium titanate and generates 16 times the electricity from the same vibrations. The less efficient compound is easier to control, however; the technology, said one scientist, still has “a way to go.”