Physicists from Russia will build the hydrogen «nano-motors» in smartphones

Physicists from Russia will build the hydrogen «nano-motors» in smartphones© Photo: Postnikov et al. / Scientific Reports 2016

. Scientists from RAS figured out how you can create microscopic internal combustion engine that can be embedded into smartphones, laptops or microchips for medical tests, according to a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.

«For laptops and other mobile devices we use electrochemical batteries, in which the stored energy is ten times less than any automotive fuel of the same volume. Why do not we apply micro-motors internal combustion engines for the gadgets? The fundamental problem is that the reaction of burning off small volumes due to the rapid withdrawal of heat. In our project we offer a solution to this problem», – says Vitali Light of Physical and technological Institute RAS, Yaroslavl, quoted in the Russian scientific Fund.

In recent years, scientists are actively trying to find a replacement for the modern alkaline and lithium-ion power sources that are used in different digital gadgets, Autonomous medical devices, industrial instruments and space probes. One of their substitutes are the so-called fuel cells – a kind of similar batteries in which the electric current is due to oxidation reactions of the fuel.

Such power supplies have higher efficiency than conventional rechargeable batteries and they can operate virtually indefinitely in the presence of fuel and oxidizer, but they are still inferior in efficiency and power of internal combustion engines, which are tried today in the automotive industry.

These engines, as Light explains, there are limits to their minimum volume should be several cubic centimeters, which does not allow to create a miniature motor classic design, which could be embedded inside the phone or other small gadgets.

Russian chemists found a way to overcome this limitation, observing unusual reactions that occur in the normal glass of water when you try to expand it with the help of electric current.

How to tell the scientists relatively recently their colleagues noticed that transmittance through the water current with a constantly changing polarity does not lead to decomposition of water and to the formation inside it of microscopic bubbles of oxygen and hydrogen. At a certain frequency «switching» electrodes and a distance between the mixture begins to spontaneously catch fire, forming water molecules. This process cannot be seen due to the small size of the bubbles, but it can be heard – the burning bubbles is accompanied by the «clicks».

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Light and his colleagues have wondered whether it is possible to convert the energy of such a «nano-explosions» in mechanical vibrations and electricity. To answer this question, scientists have created a special experimental setup, which allowed them to monitor the formation and combustion of single gas bubbles, as well as to evaluate the pressure that they generate.

How to explain the physics of explosive combustion of any fuel produces two things – heat and pressure. In fact, all of the engines is only the second thing, and the heat is only a hindrance to their work. Accordingly, if the whole energy of the explosion goes into heat, then this engine will be very inefficient or simply useless.

Previously, scientists believed that almost all the energy of burning fuel in such a little bubble out in the heat, however, the observations of the Yaroslavl physicists have shown that it is not. According to their calculations, during the «explosion» of each nanopore about 0.3 microjoule energy is converted into mechanical vibrations that can be used for useful work – electricity or for driving a pump or any other mechanical device.

«The ultimate goal of our project is to create compact, but with sufficient power density of makronisos, which can serve as an engine, for example, for blood analysis on microchips. Not every medical office or in the field have a compressor that allows you to pile on the pressure. The energy of the explosion of bubbles in the working chamber of the pump can be used to push the fluid through the microchannels,» the scientists conclude.