Piezoelectric generators are electricity generation device based on piezoelectric effect. The piezoelectric current is generated when a mechanical force applied on a body is converted to electric potential. In simple words, it means that whenever a piezoelectric material is deformed it generates electric current that can be harnessed by the means of capacitors and electrical circuitry. Many piezoelectric materials are already in use in transformers and various electrical components. It finds extensive use in motor manufacturing, motion sensors and even land mine devices used as weaponry all over the world. There are numerous other applications of piezoelectric effect. It can be used to make piezoelectric generator for charging smaller appliances or even running your watch. If it is fitted in your shoe then it can power your gadgets with every step you take.
Is it that serious?
People are indeed working on piezoelectric generators for a long time now. There has been a latest innovation in terms of piezoelectric nano-fibers in Stevens Institute of Technology. The fiber can harvest 1.6 V of electrical energy with mechanical shear. The generators use a polymer based silicone substrate. The whole fiber can be used to create clothes that can produce electricity while you are wearing them. Another significant development is going towards generating electricity for implants. Piezoelectric power generators can utilize mechanical movements of blood and body parts to store electricity in rechargeable battery with the implant.
With Piezoelectric nanofibers, there are high chances that these fibers may power the nano-robots implanted in the body for various medical application. These nanofibers will not only make implantation easy but also a onetime process with no need of recharging the batteries. Another research uses the fibers combined with asphalt. It can create a high power-generating road that can light up its own highway-lights with mechanical movement of vehicle on them.
What others are saying ?
Henderson, co-CEO and CTO of New Scale Technologies has a high opinion about the piezoelectric crystal based power. He says that the vibrating device creates an AC signal that needs to be converted to DC and stored into a battery or capacitor and then converted to AC signal later. There is a tremendous scope in future with piezoelectric generators. As per Maurice Picow Lot of research is going on to power motorized vehicles with these power generators in Technion University.
There is smaller project that involves a 10 km long piezoelectric stretch on a highway to power the lights of highway. In a famous research hypothesis by Professor Haim Abramovich of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at the Technion that 1 km stretch of these fiber generators on a 4-lane highway with 1000 vehicle traffic an hour can actually power more than 500 homes. People are even comparing the piezoelectric generators with discovery of electricity by Benjamin Franklin that surely tell you about the seriousness of the whole issue.
There have been some developments in these regard. Actually, until now piezoelectric is still in its infantile stages of development. The famous project of Israel with 10 km stretch is not very far away, as engineers are already working with 100 m prototype of the road stretch. They are collecting data to ensure the feasibility of the project for a longer stretch of highway. The Piezo-bending generators are another new development is this regard. It also works on the principle of mechanical strains of different layers of bender resulting in different amount but significant power generation.
The capacitor based piezoelectric harvester has also been developed to ensure that even the weakest electric signal is stored for later use. A new research involves multiple layers of these fibers to provide high amount of electrical energy. There are many emerging technologies associated with piezoelectric effect. Scientist are working towards high temperature, High capacitance and bending generators associated with these effect.
The main hurdles
There are not so many hurdles in this regard. First of all, technology is not yet fully understood. The amount of electricity generated varies a lot so storing these smaller current is a mammoth task. It can be accomplished only when we have high conductive wires and sensitive yet high storage capacitor available. The Piezoelectric fiber also utilizes the costly platinum wires that make the technology quite unaffordable. Another major hurdle is that the piezoelectric generators needs be in constant mechanical shear otherwise the power generated can get easily dissipated.
What can be done?
It needs a high amount of research. People are needed to be focused towards the development of these power generation devices. Newer and power capacitor based research is still needed to be done in plenty. High performance, low conductive wires can reduce the electrical wastage. The substitute of platinum is also very important as platinum overshoots the prices of these devices. The use of costly metal also makes these generators tough to be manufactured and even prone to theft. However, the research is still undergoing for removal of hurdles towards implementation of this technology.