Piezoelectric generators work due to the piezoelectric effect. This is the ability of certain materials to create electrical potential when responding to mechanical changes. To put it more simply, when compressed or expanded or otherwise changing shape a piezoelectric material will output some voltage. This effect is also possible in reverse in the sense that putting a charge through the material will result in it changing shape or undergoing some mechanical stress. These materials are useful in a variety of ways. Certain piezoelectric materials can handle high voltage extremely well and are useful in transformers and other electrical components. It is also used to make motors, reduce vibrations in sensitive environments, and relevant to our interests it can be used as an energy collector. Let’s examine some of the ways it can be used for energy.
Some of the most obvious applications of piezoelectric materials for energy collection are personal energy generators that are enough to power phones, MP3 players, etc. The sole of your shoe could be constructed of piezoelectric materials and every step you took would begin to generate electricity. This could then be stored in a battery or used immediately in personal electronics devices.
One new idea that is gaining traction is to use the vibrations created by sound reverberating through piezoelectric materials to generate electricity. This means that while you’re driving your car listening to the radio, sitting outside in a park, or doing anything you could be converting sound to electricity.
Have a look at this video showing the piezoelectric effect in action. When the board hits the material it outputs enough energy to power the lights for a moment.
Piezoelectricity has hopeful future as a personal electrical generator. A few companies have even produced and sold charging devices already. It won’t be long before your MP3 player charges itself from the noise in the room or your morning jog.
Many devices and technologies already use piezoelectricity though. Having a solid material that can transform shape when it becomes electrically charged is quite useful. As is a material that can generate that same charge when mechanically altered. For example, on the right you can see a piece from an alarm that passed a charge through a piezoelectric material wrapped around a metal disk. This would allow for a buzzing sound when the charge was rapidly cycled. Piezoelectrical charges are a new technology but one that will surely be invaluable to us in the near future.Sponsors: