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Revolutionary Material Converts Mechanical Vibrations into Electricity

Engineers have developed a groundbreaking material that can convert mechanical vibrations into electricity, providing a clean energy source to power sensors in a range of devices, from pacemakers to spacecraft. The innovative system, created by researchers at the University of Waterloo and the University of Toronto, is compact, reliable, low-cost, and environmentally friendly.

A Decade of Research

The new generating system is the first of its kind and the result of ten years of work by the researchers. It has the potential to significantly reduce our reliance on non-renewable power sources, according to Asif Khan, a Waterloo researcher and co-author of a new study on the project. “We need these energy-generating materials more critically at this moment than at any other time in history,” he said.

The Piezoelectric Effect

The system is based on the piezoelectric effect, which generates an electrical current by applying pressure to an appropriate substance. This effect was discovered in 1880 and has been used in a limited number of piezoelectric materials, such as quartz and Rochelle salts, for technologies ranging from sonar to microwave devices.

A Solution to Two Problems

Until now, traditional piezoelectric materials used in commercial devices have had limited capacity for generating electricity and often use lead, which is detrimental to the environment and human health. The researchers solved both problems by growing a large single crystal of a molecular metal-halide compound called edabco copper chloride using the Jahn-Teller effect. This highly piezoelectric material was then used to fabricate nanogenerators that can harvest tiny mechanical vibrations in any dynamic circumstance, from human motion to automotive vehicles, without using lead or non-renewable energy.

The Potential of the Nanogenerator

The nanogenerator is tiny, measuring 2.5 centimeters square and about the thickness of a business card. It has the potential to power sensors in a vast array of electronic devices, including billions needed for the Internet of Things. Dr. Dayan Ban, a researcher at the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, said that in the future, an aircraft’s vibrations could power its sensory monitoring systems, or a person’s heartbeat could keep their battery-free pacemaker running. “Our new material has shown record-breaking performance,” said Ban, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. “It represents a new path forward in this field.”


Source material by: University of Waterloo. Content has been edited for better readability.