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New Piezoelectric Flexible Nanoribbons Prove 80% Efficient Conversion

Pacemaker owners all over the world and other people in need of a reliable, small current source will surely be glad when they’ll hear that Princeton University scientists have developed an ultra-efficient (80%) piezoelectric system, able to transform mechanical work into electricity.

The material that they based their research on is composed of nanoribbons embedded onto silicon rubber sheets, and it generates electricity when flexed. The new flexible piezoelectric material could make up shoes or clothes, charging your music player or whatever else. Also, being embedded in silicon, the material can be implanted in one’s lungs, for example, to harvest the electricity needed by their pacemakers, thus eliminating the need of surgically changeable batteries.

The nanoribbons are made of lead zirconate titanate (PZT), embedded into silicone. Michael McAlpine, a processor of mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton, said: “PZT is 100 times more efficient than quartz, another piezoelectric material. […] You don’t generate that much power from walking or breathing, so you want to harness it as efficiently as possible.”

The ribbons are so narrow that 100 of them could be fit side-by-side in the space of a millimeter. “The new electricity-harvesting devices could be implanted in the body to perpetually power medical devices, and the body wouldn’t reject them,” McAlpine said.

Of course, if it works on a small scale, why wouldn’ t it work on a larger one? Yi Qi, a postdoctoral researcher working with McAlpine, said: “The beauty of this is that it’s scalable.[…]As we get better at making these chips, we’ll be able to make larger and larger sheets of them that will harvest more energy.”

So, the Israelian piezoelectric road opened recently could very well be upgraded with these very new flexible piezoelectric ribbons, that could increase their efficiency and lifetime over the existing quartz-based ones.

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