Energy harvesting holds promise for future consumer technology

Smart materials innovation improves energy harvesting

A new type of smart materials with improved energy harvesting properties has been developed by French researchers.

The new material is a so-called electrostrictive polymer that uses the piezo-electric effect to harness mechanical energy. This type of materials produces field-induced strain when exposed to an applied external electric field.

To improve the material's energy yield, the team from the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon, France, added into the material a terpolymer plasticizer. The resulting material was able to harvest more energy when exposed to the same force level.

Energy harvesting is emerging as a viable method for electronic devices to pull ambient energy from their surrounding environment and convert it into electrical energy for stored power. The technology has the potential to serve as an alternative power supply for batteries that are ubiquitous in mobile and autonomous wireless electronic devices.

The new material, described in the latest issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, could also be used to create highly sensitive sensors, the team believes.

The researchers hope to find an even more efficient plasticiser that would enable them to lower energy losses and improve the electromechanical performance of the smart material. The ideal would be for the material to work under a lower electric field, which would make it safer and more convenient for applications.

The researchers also want to establish guidelines for the development of mechanical energy harvesters based on electrostrictive polymers.

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