microgenerator is about 10 millimeters wide, or about
the size of a dime. When coupled with a similarly
sized gas-fueled microturbine (or jet) engine, the
system, called a microengine, has the potential to
deliver more energy and last 10 times longer than
a conventional battery.
Developed by doctoral candidate
David Arnold, postdoctoral fellows Dr. Iulica Zana
and Dr. Jin-Woo Park, and Professor Mark Allen, in
the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
at Georgia Tech, the microgenerator produces useful
amounts of electricity by spinning a small magnet
above a mesh of coils fabricated on a chip. The microelectromechanical
system (MEMS) was developed in close collaboration
with Sauparna Das and Dr. Jeffrey Lang in the Department
of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
While work has been underway
for several years on various microengine concepts,
Georgia Tech’s generator has now demonstrated the
ability to produce the wattage necessary to power
an electronic device, Arnold said.
“We can now get macro-scale
power from a micro-scale device,” Arnold added.
This advancement is a key step
in microengines someday being incorporated into products
and possibly replacing conventional batteries in certain
“This is an important step
in the development of MEMS-based micro-power systems,”
The device’s magnet spins at
100,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), much faster
than the comparatively sluggish 3,000 rpm of an average
car engine. Speed like that is capable of producing
1.1 watts of power, or enough juice to run a cell
If the project reaches its
projected goal, it will eventually produce as much
as 20 to 50 watts, capable of powering a laptop.
The research is part of a larger
project funded by the Army Research Laboratory to
create lighter portable power sources to replace the
heavy batteries that currently power a soldier’s equipment,
such as laptops, radios, and GPS systems. Researchers
at the University of Maryland and Clark Atlanta University
also collaborate on the project.