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Self-powered devices possible, says Texas A&M researcher
Date:12/1/2008

due to consumer demand for compact portable and wireless devices with extended lifespans.

Battery life remains a major concern for popular mp3 players and cell phones that are required to perform an ever-expanding array of functions. But beyond mere consumer convenience, self-powering devices are of major interest to several federal agencies.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has investigated methods for soldiers in the field to generate power for their portable equipment through the energy harvested from simply walking. And sensors such as those used to detect explosives could greatly benefit from a self-powering technology that would reduce the need for the testing and replacing of batteries.

"Even the disturbances in the form of sound waves such as pressure waves in gases, liquids and solids may be harvested for powering nano- and micro devices of the future if these materials are processed and manufactured appropriately for this purpose," Cagin said.

Key to this technology, Cagin explained, are piezoelectrics. Derived from the Greek word "piezein," which means "to press," piezoelectrics are materials (usually crystals or ceramics) that generate voltage when a form of mechanical stress is applied. Conversely, they demonstrate a change in their physical properties when an electric field is applied.

Discovered by French scientists in the 1880s, piezoelectrics aren't a new concept. They were first used in sonar devices during World War I. Today they can be found in microphones and quartz watches. Cigarette lighters in automobiles also contain piezoelectrics. Pressing down the lighter button causes impact on a piezoelectric crystal that in turn produces enough voltage to create a spark and ignite the gas.

On a grander scale, some night clubs in Europe feature dance floors built with piezoelectrics that absorb and convert the energy from footsteps in order to help power lights in the club. And it's b
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Contact: Ryan Garcia
ryan.garcia99@tamu.edu
979-845-9237
Texas A&M University
Source:Eurekalert

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