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A new approach to flexible energy converting material

By Scott Jenkins |

A research team at Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.; www.princeton.edu) led by Michael McAlpine and Yi Qi has devised a process for integrating nanoscale piezoelectric ribbons into flexible rubbers, enabling development of flexible, energy-harvesting materials. Efficient, flexible energy-conversion materials could be used as wearable energy-harvesting systems for mobile electronic devices or implantable medical devices. Piezoelectric materials become electrically polarized when subjected to mechanical stresses. The team’s approach involved depositing 500 nm-thick, micrometer-wide crystalline ribbons of the piezoelectric material lead zirconate titanate (PZT) on magnesium oxide wafers, then separating the PZT material from the MgO with an etching process. The ribbons are then transferred onto a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) rubber substrate by bringing a layer of PDMS into contact with the PZT ribbons still on the MgO wafer. The PDMS layer is then peeled back to retrieve the ribbons, resulting in a “piezo-rubber” chip that contains an array of the piezoelectric strips. Subsequent studies of the piezo-rubber chips confirm that the piezoelectric performance of the PZT ribbons is retained after transferring to the…
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