Imagine a future where recharging your laptop could be as easy as typing a tweet.
The frustration of leaving your laptop charger at home or the commonly heard phrase ‘my phone is about to die’ could soon become a thing of the past.
In a crucial step towards the development of self-powering portable electronics, RMIT University researchers have for the first time characterised the ability of piezoelectric thin films to turn mechanical pressure into electricity.
What does this mean for you?
Lead co-author, Dr Madhu Bhaskaran from RMIT’s Microplatforms Research Group explains that by combining piezoelectric thin films used to convert mechanical pressure into electricity, with wafer-thin film technology used to make computer microchips, the everlasting battery could be brought to reality.
“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 concept of energy harvesting using piezoelectric nanomaterials has been demonstrated but the realisation of these structures can be complex and they are poorly suited to mass fabrication.
“Our study focused on thin film coatings because we believe they hold the only practical possibility of integrating piezoelectrics into existing electronic technology.”
The Australian Research Council-funded study assessed the energy generation capabilities of piezoelectric thin films at the nanoscale and for the first time precisely measured the level of electrical voltage and current – and therefore, power – that could be generated.
“With the drive for alternative energy solutions, we need to find more efficient ways to power microchips, which are the building blocks of everyday technology like the smarter phone or faster computer,” Dr Bhaskaran said.
“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.”
The pioneering result has been published in the leading materials science journal, Advanced Functional Materials Volume 21, Issue 12. Watch the video here.
The study is co-authored by RMIT’s Dr Sharath Sriram and Australian National University’s Dr Simon Ruffell.
The value and impact of this and other key research being undertaken at RMIT has been reflected in the 2011 QS World University Rankings, with 5 of out 5 Star rating for excellence in higher education in the category of Engineering & Technology.
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