While the pedantic among us may quibble with phrases like “self-powering portable electronics” and start blathering about the second law of thermodynamics, new research from Australia is pushing the limits of piezoelectric materials for turning pressure into electrical energy for mobile devices.
The researchers have published their work in the journal Advanced Functional Materials after demonstrating a method for combining piezoelectric materials with thin-film technology to produce more easily integrated into mass-production techniques.
"The concept of energy harvesting using piezoelectric nanomaterials has been demonstrated, but the realization of these structures can be complex, and they are poorly suited to mass fabrication,” says Dr. Madhu Bhaskaran, lead coauthor of the research. "Our study focused on thin-film coatings because we believe they hold the only practical possibility of integrating piezoelectrics into existing electronic technology."When more easily integrated piezoelectric materials are combined with groundbreaking work in reducing the amount of energy consumed by electronic devices like that done by Eric Pop and his team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, it seems possible that we may be able to run our small electronic devices for longer than a few hours before we have to plug them into an outlet.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.