The microchip is known as one of the great technological advances in mankind's time on Earth. It moved technology forward decades when it was first discovered, and it now powers everything from computers to cars to the phone in your pocket. In today's world, scientists predict the next major milestone will be based on power sources.

Currently, power sources still require a lot of machinery or a lot of fuel, and it makes powering certain technology impossible. That being said, many believe the technology is almost here, and thanks to a team of engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, humanity may now be a whole lot closer to solving the riddle. The team, led by Wenzhuo Wu, has just created the world's smallest electrical generator. This is no iPhone battery-sized tech, either: the whole thing is just one atom thick.

The device's actual name is 'two-dimensional molybdenum disulfide,' though 'nano-generator' will probably be easier to say for most people. The generator works through motion. As the material is bent, twisted or put in motion, electricity is generated. This is called piezoelectricity, and while it may sound like something out of science fiction, the phenomenon actually occurs naturally. Various natural substances, such as quartz and bone, have been studied for such qualities since the mid-18th century. Only recently has modern technology been able to create such a compound artificially.

The material, which is both extremely light and transparent, has an almost infinite amount of potential uses, especially in the field of nanotechnology. However, as with all new technologies, the team behind the discovery is still looking at the material's strange quirks. For example, layering the material has to be done in a specific way: an odd number of layers must be used, or the electrical current will cancel itself out. In addition, the more layers that are used, the weaker the electrical current. So when using the material, less truly is more.

Even with these strange conditions for use, the idea of having a tiny flexible generator is amazing in its own right. The word 'generator' doesn't inspire images of anything lightweight. Most people will immediately think of the giant, bulky machines used for powering the house when the electricity goes out. With more research, power sources might not have to be so big and bulky anymore, which means that more complex technology can be powered with less material. Less material means less weight, which in turn creates even more possibilities.

While it's fun to imagine a sky full of flying cars and jetpacks powered by the nano-generators, the technology is still a long way from being developed for everyday use. Even so, this may be one of the big leaps forward towards the future of technology.

Photo: Harland Quarrington 

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