Silicon Rubber Chips that harness “Flexibile” Energy

At OnlyGizmos, we are constantly in search of technologies based on alternative energy sources. Solar, Wind or Hydrogen-powered devices, you name it, we love it. Basically, the idea is to help reduce our dependence on energy from traditional fuels and minimize carbon emissions. Kinetic Energy is another alternative that could potentially be used to charge up our gadgets, by our bodily movements

A team of Scientists and post-graduate student researchers from Princeton and California Tech Universities have developed “piezoelectric silicon rubber chips” that converts flexible movement (i.e. kinetic energy) into electricity and can be used to charge up our devices via our daily movements like Walking, Jogging, Exercising, Dancing and even physiological movements like those of lungs while inhaling/exhaling.

The sheets are made-out with nano-ribbons, composed of Lead Zirconate Titanate or PZT, which is a piezoelectric material that converts applied pressure into electricity. Scientists say that these “piezo-rubber chips” can one day be used in shoes to harvest the pounding of walking and running to power mobile electrical devices.


Of all piezoelectric materials, PZT is claimed to be the most efficient (100 times more efficient than quartz, another piezoelectric material) and is able to convert 80% of the mechanical energy applied to it into electrical energy. Being piezoelectric, it develops a voltage difference across two of its faces when compressed, or physically changes shape when an external electric field is applied. And the material is also, “pyro-electric” meaning that it detects temperature change and accordingly develops a voltage across its two faces, thus making it useful for heat-sensing equipments as well.

These new electricity-harvesting devices can be placed against the lungs of a person to power his pacemaker, thus eliminating the need to surgically replace batteries used by pacemaker and other such medical devices. And unlike in the case of a pacemaker, there is no fear of rejection by the body.

I find many potential applications for these “piezo-rubber chips”. We can use these chips on car tires, to power small lights that glow in the dark . And if the tires go flat or low on the air, it can be indicated by dimming of these lights (cool! isn’t it?). In fact, why just car tires? Use it on bicycle tires and generate enough power to charge up your mobile phone while you are cycling.

However, these new piezoelectric rubber chips are yet to be scaled up to the level of commercial use. Once that happens, I can easily visualize floors made up of these sheets being used at offices and even at schools & colleges

(via CNET ScieneDaily) (Check out the original Nano Letters report)

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