New material could harvest electricity from the human body

Scientists from Switzerland have produced a material that can harvest electricity from the human body, and could have uses from pacemakers to clothing. The flexible material has been developed by researchers from the Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, and generates electricity when stretched and compressed using a phenomenon known as the piezoelectric effect, which is most commonly observed when a needle mechanically vibrates in the groves of record in an analog record player. Through the piezoelectric effect, the vibrations are converted into electrical pulses that generate sound waves; it's this conversion of mechanical vibrations into electrical energy that is exploited by the new material, and has only been observed in crystals before being demonstrated in elastic materials. Because of its thin, flexible, organic nature, the new material could work more seamlessly with the human body than current electronics, but producing it is very challenging. Polar nanoparticles and silicone must be laboriously shaped before they are connected, and then a strong electric field is introduced into the thin, elastic film to create the piezoelectric effect, which is achieved by exposing the material to extremely hot, and then cool, temperatures. To find out more check out A rubber power plant.