Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This material could be charged with electricity with the movement of the body

A group of Swiss researchers have developed a revolutionary elastic material that produces electricity through movement and that in the future could be integrated into the human body to power devices such as pacemakers.

We have seen it in many magic or science fiction movies: a person stretches out his arms and from his hands sprout powerful rays of energy, as if his body were a battery. While up to now this scene was only imaginable as part of a film script, a group of researchers from the Empa (the Swiss Federal Institute of Materials, Science and Technology) have manufactured a thin and flexible material that generates electricity when it is stretched and compressed and that could be used to channel energy from our organism.

The main researcher of the project, Dorina Opris, has indicated in a statement from the Swiss center that this new material "could even be used to obtain energy from the human body. It would be implanted near the heart to generate electricity from the heartbeat, for example. "

The invention, which takes advantage of the mechanical energy of movement, works thanks to the piezoelectric effect: it converts the vibrations resulting from the contraction of the material into electrical impulses that create sound waves. This process is similar to that performed by analog music devices, which reproduce a melody by reading the grooves of the disc with a needle that vibrates mechanically.

Previously it was believed that this effect could only be observed in crystals, but with this last finding the group of Swiss scientists has shown that these properties can also exist in elastic materials.

Now, the future of this material has lights and shadows: although its development is very promising, it is not easy to produce it. In fact, both the polar nanoparticles - microscopic particles with great potential for biomedical, optical and electronic applications - and the silicone they use in their manufacture must be created before they are connected, and it is a very laborious process.

The result of their union is a thin elastic film in which a strong electric field has to be introduced to create the piezoelectric effect. And this is only achieved by exposing the material to extremely hot temperatures and then cold temperatures.

From the Empa have reported that this process is worthwhile, since the final product has an incredible number of unique applications and could be used in pressure sensors, pacemakers and other medical devices. It could also be incorporated into garments, control buttons or even portable monitors that generate electricity from the movement of the user.

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