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Paving the Way for More Flexible Electronics

Team of researchers led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a new material, that when electricity is applied to it, can flex and bend forty times more than other materials in the same class, opening the way to better micro machines.

Piezoelectric materials are commonly used in guitars, loudspeakers, sensors and electric motors. For instance, a piezoelectric pick-up is a device used in an electric guitar to convert the vibrations from the strings into an electric signal, which is then processed for music recording or to be amplified through loudspeakers. Ferroelectric crystals were first discovered in 1920 and have been used to make piezoelectrics for over 70 years, as they are easily integrated into electrical devices.

Researchers from NTU led by Professor Fan Hong Jin from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences published in Nature Materials a new discovery of piezoelectric crystal that could pave the way for smaller, more efficient actuators – used in electronically-controlled valves – as well as sensors and energy harvesting for wearable electronics.

The scientists found that when an electric field is applied, the new hybrid material could be strained up to 22 percent, the highest strain reported in a piezoelectric material so far. This far surpasses conventional piezoelectric materials that only deform up to 0.5 percent when a current is passed through it.

This demonstrated that when it is bent, it is able to generate electricity very efficiently and could be used for better “energy harvesting”. It could also potentially be applied to rechargeable batteries in gadgets just from normal daily movement. [APBN]