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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Researchers use strain for power

Imagine an mp3 player that is not only lighter and thinner than ever, but also does not run on a battery. Picture a laptop that allows users to surf the Web or work on a project without worrying about running out of power.

These are only two examples of piezoelectricity’s potential. A team of determined professors and students at UH hopes to achieve this type of technological advancement, setting a goal to develop a piezoelectric instrument out of a normal device.

The team consists of professors who guide doctoral candidates’ research. Mohamed Majdoub, Mohamed Gharbi and Joshua Sun are three of the students who have taken an interest in harnessing the power of piezoelectricity.

Piezoelectric devices produce electricity when they are subjected to strain, said Professor Pradeep Sharma, head of the research group at the Cullen College of Engineering.

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Chairman Ramanan Krishnamoorti said piezoelectricity could be applied to a number of devices, including medical sensors and solar energy collectors.

The technology needed for utilization already exists, but the team wants to ‘give it some juice’ by making it ‘sufficiently efficient,’ Sharma said.

‘The piezoelectric materials that will result from this technology can have far-reaching consequences in applications that go beyond the ordinary everyday notions of cell phones and laptops,’ Krishnamoorti said. ‘The biggest and most significant impediments are to keep the costs low, keep the materials lightweight and be able to withstand harsh environments.’

The team estimates it will conclude its research in 2011. The members plan to give their results to companies that are prepared to develop it.

Despite the excitement surrounding this research, piezoelectricity has some restrictions.

Although ideal, it is not possible to create a piezoelectric device that can power a house because of the physical limitation of the material being used, Sharma said.

These devices, however, can be applied to physical activities such as walking, swimming and running. A piezoelectric device can be put under the soles of shoes and it is possible to harvest a considerable amount of power for other devices.

This technology would be helpful for soldiers stationed overseas, who carry a heavy load of electrical equipment. Instead of relying on batteries, only a small amount of power would be needed, making their loads much lighter.

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