Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and RMIT have announced a breakthrough in energy storage and power generation.


While on a sabbatical from RMIT, Associate Professor Associate Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh joined MIT Associate Professor Michael Strano’s nanotechnology research team.


At the time of Associate Professor  Kalantar-zadeh’s arrival in 2009, Associate Professor Strano’s team was working on measuring the acceleration of a chemical reaction along a nanotube when they discovered that the reaction generated power.


While at MIT, Dr Kalantar-zadeh joined the researchers and using their combined expertise in chemistry and nanomaterials they further explored this new phenomenon.


Their work titled Nanodynamite: Fuel-coated nanotubes could provide bursts of power to the smallest systems is in the December IEEE Spectrum Magazine, the publication of the IEEE, the world's largest professional technology association.


Associate Professor Kalantar-zadeh said that this experimental system, based on one of the materials that have come from nanotechnology - carbon nanotubes - generates power, something researchers had not seen before.


"By coating a nanotube in nitrocellulose fuel and igniting one end, we set off a combustion wave along it and learned that a nanotube is an excellent conductor of heat from burning fuel. Even better, the combustion wave creates a strong electric current," he said.


"This discovery that a thermopower wave works best across these tubes because of their dual conductivity turns conventional thermoelectricity on its head.


"It's the first viable nanoscale approach to power generation that exploits the thermoelectric effect by overcoming the feasibility issues associated with minimising dimensions.


"But there are multiple angles to explore when it comes to taming these exotic waves and, ultimately, finding out if they're the wave of the future."