Researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP in collaboration with scientists at the Technical University of Dresden and Oulu University in Finland have developed a new way to create thin-film piezoelectric materials suitable for energy harvesting in small wearable devices. Piezoelectric materials have the useful characteristic of producing an electrical current when a force is applied (such as bending), as well as moving when a current is applied. Most materials need to be relatively thick to produce a useful amount of electricity.
The researchers have developed a way to deposit a lead-free material in thin layers in an economic manner that makes the resulting devices more affordable. They are also able to deposit multiple layers of material, which produces three to four times the power output of a single layer.
The end result could be a new set of materials that can be manufactured easily, and that can be used to power small wearable sensors, either worn as patches on the skin or embedded in fabrics, or as implantable devices within a patient’s body. Producing its own power by harvesting energy from the body’s motion, the devices would not need to be recharged or have its batteries replaced.