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Piezoelectric

Almost since the beginning of their existence, robots have taken inspiration from one of nature's wonders: insects. Technological limitations typically prevent these robots from matching the small size of their many-legged muses, resulting in gargantuan examples like Festo's BionicOpter dragonfly. In stark contrast is Harvard's RoboBee, which is the first in the world to demonstrate controlled flight by an insect-sized robot. Read More
For years now, scientists across the globe have strived to find a method that gives robots an accurate sense of touch, and with good reason. A robot with an improved ability to feel would be better equipped to identify objects, judge its movements with greater care, and perform more tasks overall. In the latest step towards that goal, researchers at Georgia Tech have crafted a new type of touch-reactive material that's sensitive enough to read fingerprints and could provide robots with a sense of touch that resembles our own. Read More
A team of researchers at MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research has developed a new polymer film that generates power from water vapor. Consisting of two polymer films, the material makes remarkably acrobatic somersaults in the presence of even tiny traces of evaporated water, opening the way for new types of artificial muscles for controlling robotic limbs or powering micro and nanoscopic devices. Read More
While we’ve seen developments that could see T-ray spectrometers featuring in a future handheld tricorder-like device, good ol’ X-rays could also get a guernsey thanks to an engineering team from the University of Missouri. The team has invented an accelerator about the size of a stick of gum that can create X-rays and other forms of radiation, opening up the possibility of cheap and portable X-ray scanners. Read More
Despite their shortcomings, fans do a good job of cooling things down inside PC chassis. Unfortunately, their bulky shape and drain on battery life doesn’t make them a viable option for thinner form factors, such as tablets and smartphones, limiting the processing grunt that can be crammed inside such devices. Inspired by lungs and by adapting technology that improves airflow through jet engines, researchers at GE have created a super-thin cooling device they say will enable thinner, quieter and more powerful tablets and laptops. Read More
Systems that convert kinetic energy into electric energy have made great strides in recent times, from mobile phone charging bicycle dynamos to tiles that turn footsteps into electrical energy. Recently researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have come up with what they believe is a more efficient approach – a self-charging power cell that directly converts mechanical energy to chemical energy and stores the power for release as an electrical current. Read More
Research using a prototype piezoelectric energy-harvesting device developed by the University of Michigan suggests that the human heart provides more than enough energy to power a pacemaker, according to a statement released by the American Heart Association. The research has led to fresh speculation that piezoelectricity, electricity converted from mechanical stresses undergone by a generator, may one day provide an alternative to battery-powered pacemakers that need to be surgically replaced as often as every five years. Read More
The problem with depending on one source of power in the drive toward the battery-free operation of small biomedical devices, remote sensors and out-of-the-way gauges is that if the source is intermittent, not strong enough or runs out altogether, the device can stop working. A small MIT research team has developed a low-power chip design capable of simultaneously drawing power from photovoltaic, thermoelectric, and piezoelectric energy sources. The design also features novel dual-path architecture that allows it to run from either onboard energy storage or direct from its multiple power sources. Read More
If you’ve ever worn a knee brace, then you may have noticed what a large change in angle your knee goes through with every step you take, and how quickly it does so. A team of scientists from the U.K.’s Cranfield University, University of Liverpool and University of Salford certainly noticed, and decided that all that movement should be put to use. The result is a wearable piezoelectric device that converts knee movement into electricity, which could in turn be used to power gadgets such as heart rate monitors, pedometers and accelerometers. Read More

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have created a new piezoelectric nanogenerator that promises to overcome the restrictions found in previous attempts to build a simple, low-cost, large scale self-powered energy system. Read More

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