Soon we may be able to power our iPads, iPhones and other portable electronics with just the tap of our finger.

That’s because researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne have for the first time discovered how they can use piezoelectric thin films to turn mechanical pressure into electricity.

Lead co-author of the findings at RMIT, Dr Madhu Bhaskaran, said the university’s research combined the potential of piezoelectrics – materials capable of converting pressure into electrical energy – and the cornerstone of microchip manufacturing, thin film technology.

Dr Madhu Bhaskaran.Dr Madhu Bhaskaran.

“The power of piezoelectrics could be integrated into running shoes to charge mobile phones, enable laptops to be powered through typing or even used to convert blood pressure into a power source for pacemakers – essentially creating an everlasting battery,” Dr Bhaskaran said.

The Australian Research Council-funded study assessed the energy generation capabilities of piezoelectric thin films at the nanoscale, for the first time precisely measuring the level of electrical voltage and current – and therefore, power – that could be generated.

“The next key challenge will be amplifying the electrical energy generated by the piezoelectric materials to enable them to be integrated into low-cost, compact structures,” Dr Bhaskaran said.

A club in London has used piezoelectricity to generate about 60 per cent of the energy needed to run the club. It requires people to dance on its dance floor to generate electricity.

Solve the world’s energy problems?

Piezoelectric thin films were “never going to be something that’s going to save the energy problems of the world”, Dr Bhaskaran told Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

This was because the amount of electricity generated from the pressure would not be enough to power anything other than something that “runs off a couple of batteries”, Dr Bhaskaran said.

In about five or six years we would begin to see the first devices integrating piezoelectrics, she said.

Dr Bhaskaran co-authored the study with Dr Sharath Sriram, within RMIT’s Microplatforms Research Group, which is led by Professor Arnan Mitchell. The pair collaborated with Australian National University’s Dr Simon Ruffell on the research.

The study was published in materials science journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


People have been using pens to jot down their thoughts for thousands of years but now engineers at the University of Illinois have developed a silver-inked rollerball pen that allows users to jot down electrical circuits and interconnects on paper, wood and other surfaces. Looking just like a regular ballpoint pen, the pen’s ink consists of a solution of real silver that dries to leave electrically conductive silver pathways. These pathways maintain their conductivity through multiple bends and folds of the paper, enabling users to personally fabricate low-cost, flexible and disposable electronic devices.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha