Using Piezoelectricity to Harvest Energy (Part 4/4)

Here’s the fourth and final part of my piezoelectric energy generation review paper!

Abstract

The way the world is currently heading, energy usage is killing us. Majority of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are caused by energy usage and only a small portion of total energy usage is sustainable! Clearly this is a problem. Piezoelectricity brings a fresh, new, unique and potentially world changing solution to a problem tormenting humanity for possibly the rest of its existence! New energy harvesting technologies aren’t common, especially ones with as big of a potential as piezoelectricity. In fact, piezoelectricity is already in much of modern technology, from lighters, phones, speakers, earpieces and so much more. Innovating on this established technology is a surefire way to lead the way in sustainable energy usage.

In the first part, I talked about what exactly piezoelectricity is — the creation of electrical polarization in an object when mechanical energy is applied to it.

I went in-depth about the science behind the piezoelectric effect, and the structure of hemihedral, or piezoelectric crystals. The imbalance of positively and negatively charged atoms on either side of these crystals means it can be harnessed and used as electricity.

I also talked about the current uses of piezoelectricity like how many lighters use it, where pressing a button hits a piezoelectric material which creates a spark, starting a fire. Many earphones and speaker devices use piezoelectricity as well.

I ended this part by going over piezoelectric materials — there are 5types: Single crystalline materials, Piezoceramics, Piezoelectric semiconductors, Polymers, Piezoelectric composites, and Glass ceramics. They all have widely different uses.

In the second part of the series, I looked at everything that was holding piezoelectricity back from becoming a mainstream source of energy. The biggest technical gap I talked about is how no piezoelectric material that can actually sustain the high amounts of energy needed. The logical gap I talked about is how many piezoelectric materials are either sourced from nature (e.g. mining), or toxic.

No material in use has a high enough intensity of the piezoelectric effect while still being non-toxic, sustainable and durable.

I then talked about the biggest contender that can solve this problem — Nanocellulose. Cellulose or (C6H10O5)n is a fiber that is found in many living organisms, playing the role of holding the structure of them and keeping them sturdy. Nanocellulose is, as the name states, nano-scale cellulose.

Nanocellulose is the next big thing that might make piezoelectric energy generation mainstream.

We can boil the reasons for this down to 3 main points.

  1. It’s the most abundant biomass resource on earth. This means it’s common.
  2. It’s non-toxic, eco friendly and biodegradable. This means it’s sustainable.
  3. It’s extremely low-cost to extract and refine. This means it’s cheap.

Finally in the last part, I talked about the current and future uses of piezoelectricity, from floors and all the way to things like contact lenses or pacemakers that use the human body.

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.

I ended it off with the same talk gets given about humanity’s use of energy and how climate change is ending the world. We should 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.

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And here we are with the conclusion of my review paper.

7. Conclusion

Piezoelectricity is the energy of the future — with immense possibilities from floor tiles to contact lenses and pacemakers, it can be used everywhere. Recent developments like nanocellulose and more can solve the problems stopping piezoelectric energy generation from becoming mainstream, and it may be a major player in changing the world to alternative energy.

And it’s complete! I know you’re sad to see it going just like I am, but trust me there will be more! See you soon.

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