Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 | Author:  | 11,577 views - starting Aug 9/09

piezoelectricity? … what is that? … too many syllables!

no, wait! read on!! … physics is really cool! …atom

understanding the physics of our world and of our surrounding galaxy and Universe is an intensely fascinating venture! … the principles of physics, chemistry, math, and biology that govern and effect our existence are literally incredible …

it’s exciting to see how persistent humans are in exploring realms of the unknown … we really are innately curious creatures, and that makes life a lot of fun! … for millenia humans have probed and prodded physical and metaphysical realms to search for the answers to their incessant, insatiable questions … this is a good thing because we’ve learned so much … the power of our knowledge, however, must be respected deeply because knowledge can be used destructively or constructively …

in the mid- to late-19th century, several scientists discovered some materials generate an electrical potential when they are mechanically stressed (e.g., squeezed, compressed, etc.) … dubbed piezomorphic (a word derived from Greek: piezo = squeeze or press + morh = form) substances, people soon realized that there was a great potential (no pun intended!) for using these materials to generate different forms of energy

piezomorphic materials include:

spider silk has piezomorphic properties

spider silk has piezomorphic properties

* crystal minerals such as quartz, berlinite, topaz, tourmalines, and potassium sodium tartrate salt;

* cane sugar;

* silk, including spider silk;

* wood

* some ceramics;

* animal tissues including bone (specifically, the collagen within the bone matrix), tendon, enamel, and dentin (the implications of this last point — that we generate electrical potential beyond the fundamental energies emitted by our ever-vibrating cells — are *very* exciting to me!);

* some man-made materials …

i think continued work in this field will yield the discovery of piezoelectric properties in many more substances …

so what are the implications of this neat discovery?

piezoelectricity = energy generated from piezomorphic materials … piezomorphic substances generate electrical potential through a process known as transduction … transduction is essentially the conversion of energy from 1 form into another … the principle of transduction holds a lot of promise for harnessing extant and natural energy-producing processes into forms of energy humans can use to satisfy their needs …

the capture and usage of energy generated from daily, mundane, and ubiquitous processes can arguably be the cleanest form of energy generation (technically, this process is actually a form of energy recycling) …

energy recycling?! excellent!

recycling energy

recycling energy

indeed! instead of letting that unused energy go to ‘waste’ (e.g., dissipation as heat), brilliant forms of technology capture and use it …

piezoelectricity has been exploited ever since its discovery … the myriad of applications include car cigarette lighters, quartz watches, medical ultrasound equipment, loudspeakers … you get the picture …

however, people think big … and using piezoelectricity for large-scale energy production is the most recent trend …

in a previous post, i briefly mentioned piezoelectric energy generation … i provided a link to a study where scientists investigated capturing biomechanical (i.e., movement in living organisms) energy from human finger movements and from hamsters running in a wheel … so in this case, the source of piezoelectricity would be the movement of a living being … every form of movement — walking, breathing, jumping, heartbeats, circulation — releases energy …

scientists and engineers are beginning to use this technology in larger, real-world applications to alleviate the environmental strain from conventional forms of energy generation (e.g., coal, petroleum, and natural gas) …

examples of piezoelectricity in use today …

tokyo train station

tokyo train station

* east japan railway company (jr east) has installed piezoelectric materials in the floor of their tokyo station to capture the energy generated from people walking on this surface …

* innowattech in israel installed piezoelectric crystals in the asphalt of roads and highways to harness the energy generated from moving cars …

harnessing energy from vehicle traffic

harnessing energy from vehicle traffic

* in glouchester, UK a Sainsbury’s supermarket installed piezomorphic crystals in the parking lot to harness the energy of moving cars and supermarket carts …

* georgia institute of technology developed a fabric that can be used to make clothing and generate electrical power from the movement of the person wearing it or other mechanical friction applied to it (e.g., rubbing) …

harnessing the energy from electrified dancers

harnessing the energy from electrified dancers

* watt dance club in rotterdam, netherlands powers its dance floor lights with electricity generated from people dancing on the floor … other clubs in the UK and USA have followed suit …

future potential …

* engineers are working toward designing devices that power themselves (including self-powering nanotechnology … for more on this, also look into flexoelectricity) or that generate power that can then be stored for later use (e.g., in batteries) … this includes developing already existing prototypes of devices that capture the energy of humans walking (this also includes exploiting a principle known as the faraday effect) …

we most likely won’t ever be able to harvest and use all of the energy that is generated from natural or inevitable processes …

however, this is truly a promising field and i think the public should demand that their governments invest in exploring and developing this technology in their country … instead of subsidizing coal plants, nuclear power, or oil companies, i think governments need to focus their attention and investments into forms of energy production that have few detrimental consequences to life on Earth …

Category: Energy
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6 Responses

  1. 1
    Mike 

    I love this article! The ingenuity of people amazes me and the examples of uses of piezoelectric is very interesting indeed. These ways to gather energy should be at the forefront when thinking of alternative energy sources. It’s like water dripping in the bathtub, every little bit adds up in the end!

  2. 2
    thomas 

    I like your idea. interresting way of using things.

  3. 3
    Muthanna 

    This helped me a lot for my science fair, thank you! :)

  4. 4
    daniela 

    :) great! i’m so glad!

  5. 5
    Edda Cheves 

    Great information! Thank you very much! I don’t even know how I came across your blog, but I’m glad I did!

  6. 6
    Kaz 

    After looking at a handful of the articles on your website, I must say that I seriously like your way of writing a blog! I saved it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back in the near future. Please write more.