Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Graphene Discovery Boosts Oil Exploration Efforts, Could Enable Self-Powered Microsensors

20.07.2011
Nanoengineered Graphene Coating Harvests Energy From Flowing Water, Powers Microsensors Used To Detect Underground Oil and Gas

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new method to harvest energy from flowing water. This discovery aims to hasten the creation of self-powered microsensors for more accurate and cost-efficient oil exploration.

Led by Rensselaer Professor Nikhil Koratkar, the researchers investigated how the flow of water over surfaces coated with the nanomaterial graphene could generate small amounts of electricity. The research team demonstrated the creation of 85 nanowatts of power from a sheet of graphene measuring .03 millimeters by .015 millimeters.

This amount of energy should be sufficient to power tiny sensors that are introduced into water or other fluids and pumped down into a potential oil well, Koratkar said. As the injected water moves through naturally occurring cracks and crevices deep in the earth, the devices detect the presence of hydrocarbons and can help uncover hidden pockets of oil and natural gas. As long as water is flowing over the graphene-coated devices, they should be able to provide a reliable source of power. This power is necessary for the sensors to relay collected data and information back to the surface.

“It’s impossible to power these microsensors with conventional batteries, as the sensors are just too small. So we created a graphene coating that allows us to capture energy from the movement of water over the sensors,” said Koratkar, professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the Rensselaer School of Engineering. “While a similar effect has been observed for carbon nanotubes, this is the first such study with graphene. The energy-harvesting capability of graphene was at least an order of magnitude superior to nanotubes. Moreover, the advantage of the flexible graphene sheets is that they can be wrapped around almost any geometry or shape.”

Details of the study, titled “Harvesting Energy from Water Flow over Graphene,” were published online last week by the journal Nano Letters. The study also will appear in a future print edition of the journal. The online version may be viewed at: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/nl2011559

It is the first research paper to result from the $1 million grant awarded to Koratkar’s group in March 2010 by the Advanced Energy Consortium.

Hydrocarbon exploration is an expensive process that involves drilling deep down in the earth to detect the presence of oil or natural gas. Koratkar said oil and gas companies would like to augment this process by sending out large numbers of microscale or nanoscale sensors into new and existing drill wells. These sensors would travel laterally through the earth, carried by pressurized water pumped into these wells, and into the network of cracks that exist underneath the earth’s surface. Oil companies would no longer be limited to vertical exploration, and the data collected from the sensors would arm these firms with more information for deciding the best locations to drill.

The team’s discovery is a potential solution for a key challenge to realizing these autonomous microsensors, which will need to be self-powered. By covering the microsensors with a graphene coating, the sensors can harvest energy as water flows over the coating.

“We’ll wrap the graphene coating around the sensor, and it will act as a ‘smart skin’ that serves as a nanofluidic power generator,” Koratkar said.

Graphene is a single-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms, which are arranged like a chain-link fence. For this study, Koratkar’s team used graphene that was grown by chemical vapor deposition on a copper substrate and transferred onto silicon dioxide. The researchers created an experimental water tunnel apparatus to test the generation of power as water flows over the graphene at different velocities.

Along with physically demonstrating the ability to generate 85 nanowatts of power from a small fragment of graphene, the researchers used molecular dynamics simulations to better understand the physics of this phenomenon. They discovered that chloride ions present in the water stick to the surface of graphene. As water flows over the graphene, the friction force between the water flow and the layer of adsorbed chloride ions causes the ions to drift along the flow direction. The motion of these ions drags the free charges present in graphene along the flow direction – creating an internal current.

This means the graphene coating requires ions to be present in water to function properly. Therefore, oil exploration companies would need to add chemicals to the water that is injected into the well. Koratkar said this is an easy, inexpensive solution.

For the study, Koratkar’s team also tested the energy harvested from water flowing over a film of carbon nanotubes. However, the energy generation and performance was far inferior to those attained using graphene, he said.

Looking at potential future applications of this new technology, Koratkar said he could envision self-powered microrobots or microsubmarines. Another possibility is harvesting power from a graphene coating on the underside of a boat.

Along with Koratkar, co-authors on the paper include: Yunfeng Shi, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer; Rensselaer mechanical engineering graduate students Prashant Dhiman and Fazel Yavari; Rensselaer physics graduate student Xi Mi; along with Pulickel Ajayan, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor of Engineering at Rice University; and Rice graduate student Hemtej Gullapalli.

For more information on Koratkar’s research at Rensselaer, visit:

• Researchers Secure $1 Million Grant To Develop Oil Exploration Game-Changer
http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2700
• “Nanoscoops” Could Spark New Generation of Electric Automobile Batteries
http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2810
• Water Could Hold Answer to Graphene Nanoelectronics
http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2783
• Graphene Outperforms Carbon Nanotubes for Creating Stronger Materials
http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2715
• Using Nanotubes To Detect and Repair Cracks in Aircraft Wings, Other Structures

http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2321

Contact
Michael Mullaney
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, NY
518-276-6161
mullam@rpi.edu
www.rpi.edu/news
Visit the Rensselaer research and discovery blog: http://approach.rpi.edu
Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RPInews

Michael Mullaney | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.rpi.edu

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air
26.04.2017 | University of Central Florida

nachricht Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics
25.04.2017 | University of Delaware

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>