Technology 2 min read

Scientists Develop New Energy Harvesting 3D-Printing Technique

3D-Printed flexible sheet of piezoelectric material | Zheng Lab | Virginia Tech |

3D-Printed flexible sheet of piezoelectric material | Zheng Lab | Virginia Tech |

Researchers from Virginia Tech University just developed a new approach enabling the 3D-printing of piezoelectric material. Originally discovered in the late 18th century by the French physicists Pierre and Jacques Curie, this kind of material can convert strain and stress into electric charges.

Today, piezoelectric materials are on almost all electronic devices. However, these materials are made up of ceramic and crystal, making them inherently brittle. Because of this limitation, producing piezoelectric materials is not only challenging but also expensive.

However, this new approach reportedly eliminates these design limitations, making it less expensive to produce.

“We have developed a design method and printing platform to freely design the sensitivity and operational modes of piezoelectric materials,” Xiaoyu ‘Rayne’ Zheng, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, said.

Read More: Revolutionary 3D Printer Prints 100 Times Faster Than Current Printers

3D-Printing Piezoelectric Material

The team developed a method enabling them to manipulate and design arbitrary piezoelectric constants. The material produced can generate electric charge movement in response to vibrations through 3D-printable topologies.

“By programming the 3D active topology, you can achieve pretty much any combination of piezoelectric coefficients within a material, and use them as transducers and sensors that are not only flexible and strong, but also respond to pressure, vibrations and impacts via electric signals that tell the location, magnitude and direction of the impacts within any location of these materials,” Zheng went on to say.

A 3d-printed sheet of piezoelectric material
A 3d-printed sheet of piezoelectric material | H. Cui | Zheng Lab

The new method allows users to assign the voltage responses of the 3D-printed piezoelectric material. They can even magnify, suppress, or reverse the material in any direction.

According to Zheng, they can customize the material’s architecture to make it flexible, lighter, thicker, stiff, or energy absorbing. At a minimum, these designs make it suitable for mass-printing energy-harvesting devices.

you can find the team’s study on piezoelectric material in the journal Nature Materials.

Where else do you think this breakthrough discovery could have practical applications?

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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