Charge your laptop by typing on it — sounds like a perfect idea to one who believes in the ideal world. But this could soon become a reality as Researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have successfully measured a piezoelectric thin film’s capacity for turning mechanical pressure into electricity — which is said to be a crucial step towards the development of self-powering portable electronics.
Piezoelectricity, a phenomenon that was used in electric cigarette lighters was discovered in the 19th century. Similar to the way electric cigarette lighters use piezoelectric crystals to produce a high voltage electric current, laptops could also generate electric energy to self-charge themselves when buttons are pressed.
According to Dr. Madhu Bhaskaran:
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.
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.
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.
This study has been co-authored by Dr Bhaskaran with Dr Sharath Sriram, who is part of the Microplatforms Research Group, led by Professor Arnan Mitchell. Australian National University’s Dr Simon Ruffell also collaborated on the research. The study was published in Volume 21, Issue 12 of Advanced Functional Materials.
The drawback of this is that the piezelectric film is still not cost-effective to manufacture, but experts believe this dream will come true sooner rather than later.