The scientific journal Advanced Functional Materials is not be bedside reading for many technology enthusiasts but research published in the magazine could mean huge changes in the usefulness of the devices we use every day.
Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have made a breakthrough in the use of piezoelectric technology as a way of powering a range of devices. Piezoelectric materials are substances that generate electricity when subjected to pressure or concussion. While we have known about these substances for over 120 years, it is only now that we may be able to put them to use in generating electricity through everyday actions. The researchers have managed for the first time to accurately measure the energy generated by ultra-thin piezoelectric materials. This breakthrough should make it easier for scientists to incorporate a very thin layer of piezoelectric material into consumer technology.
The idea would be that a thin layer coating the keys you type on every day would generate enough power to charge your laptop. The researchers are also looking into putting the substances on touch panels found on tablets and smartphones so all that swiping won’t go to waste. Currently the energy being generated is nowhere near the amount needed to completely power a laptop, but it could be used to extend the life of the battery. The researchers believe that within three years this technology could be a lot more powerful. Dr Madhu Bhaskaran, who led the research, told ABC News in Australia: “Currently the energy levels we’re able to generate is around ten times less than what’s required, so that’s the next step, to amplify it by ten times, so we can produce an everlasting battery or replace existing batteries. If we can amplify the power, which we think will take three years, it should be fairly quick to commercialise it.”
The idea of an ever-lasting battery has been something of a science fiction dream up until now but if this research is anything to go by, piezoelectric technology could be the solution to a lot of our battery problems.
Source: Advanced Functional Materials