Using Piezoelectricity to Harvest Energy (Part 3/4)

Review paper — once again! This is the last part before the conclusion where I’ll be talking about the possibilities of piezo and the current uses for it, as well as why this is all so important.

Last time, I talked about the holdbacks of piezoelectricity and what’s stopping it from becoming mainstream. The logical and technical gaps include things like the lack of a material with high enough piezoelectric intensity and the fact that many piezoelectric materials are natural and need to be mined. Check that out here, and check out part one of the series here!

5. Where can Piezoelectricity be Used Best?

Piezoelectric energy generation can essentially be used anywhere that there is mechanical energy — everywhere.

5.1. Current uses

Currently, it’s used in places with a high input of mechanical energy.

This can be places like floors, where companies are working to create products that generate electricity by converting footsteps. This is one of the most common and most standard examples because of the simplicity of it. A design can be as simple as a large piezoelectric disc with two metal plates and a sheet of piezoelectric material in between, as well as wires connecting these plates to loads.

Here’s where the line between current and future gets blurred. using piezoelectricity within/among the human body is an idea with extremely high potential.

On the current side of this idea, we have companies who are working to create smart contact lenses that don’t need to be externally charged. Most smart contact lenses last around 3–5 hours, which is nowhere near a full day’s use. Imagine that with just the blinking of the eye, something we do just under 20 thousand times a day, we could actually power these smart contact lenses!

5.2. Future Uses

Now on the other side of this human body idea are some even cooler ideas.

One of the future uses of piezoelectric energy generation could be self sustaining pacemakers. They have batteries that last 6–7 years before they need changing. This can lead to complications, and with the problems with lithium-ion batteries the world is looking for a change. Here’s where piezo can help. The heart beats with enough mechanical energy to power a pacemaker, given the right piezoelectric tech was used. Something like Nanocellulose has the intensity of the piezoelectric effect to do the job. Imagine a pacemaker with no battery — smaller, more efficient and extremely low maintenance! This seems like an ideal solution.

Another one of these future uses could be using any of the body’s wasted mechanical energy for literally any use. While Piezoelectric current is alternating (AC), it can be converted to a direct current (DC). Using things like shoes to generate and store electricity, which can later be used for any use such as charging a phone, is extremely smart and takes advantage of something that isn’t going anywhere anyways. Piezoelectric gloves, clothing and more can all achieve this same output!

At the end of the day, piezoelectricity has an uncountable amount of uses. Mechanical energy is everywhere, and so if we can find a way to do it, it can be harnessed everywhere.

6. Why is This Important?

Here’s where the same talk gets given about humanity’s use of energy and how climate change is ending the world.

Fossil fuels, as we all know, are taking the world to a place we can’t come back from — at the time this is posted, the climate clock schedules that if greenhouse gas emissions do not hit 0 until it’s too late, we have just over 7 years before the effects of climate change are irreversible. This is a problem.

Currently, no alternative energy source has gotten rid of the need for fossil fuels. Whether it’s solar, wind, nuclear, etc. no source has reached a point where it’s wiped the need for fossil fuels off this planet we call home. We can be hopeful that one day this problem will be solved, but let’s do more than hope.

Let’s instead spend our time looking for other ways we can fix this problem, ergo let’s not stop our search for new, potentially world-changing sources of energy like piezoelectric energy generation.

The fourth and final part will be out soon. Adios!

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