Have you ever noticed that if you stretch a rubber band a bunch of times in a row, it gets warm? That’s an indication of energy being generated by the stretching of the material. What if it produced electricity instead of heat? That’s the focus of new research by scientists at Ricoh and the Tokyo University of Science.
Piezoelectric materials generate electricity when a force is applied. In general, these materials fall into two categories. Ceramic materials are highly efficient at converting force to electricity, but they tend to be heavy and fragile. The other group consists of polymer materials that are flexible, but they do not produce much power. Ricoh and its collaborators have developed “Energy-Generating Rubber” that combines the high output levels of ceramic piezoelectric materials with the flexibility of polymers. In addition, the new material can be produced in large sheets at relatively low temperatures. It is able to produce power from small forces, but is durable enough to withstand heavy loads.
While still in the research stage, this new material could have enormous implications for many markets including wearable Health Tech devices. It could form the basis for efficient energy harvesting for everything from clothing to footwear; imagine if your shoes generated electricity with every step. This could be a practical solution for charging a network of body sensors and other devices.
Hello. This product sounds like just what I want to experiment with. I want to stretch the rubber material from branch to branch so that the branch or trunk movement can generate a small current. Many such rubber bands, perhaps the length and thickness of a bicycle tire, could be converted to 13 – 14 volts to trickle charge a 12 volt battery. Are you able to comment? Is the material cost likely to be prohibitive? I want it now! Cheers David
David, I don’t know anything more than what’s in the article. My best suggestion is to contact the researchers and see if they can answer your questions. (If you decide to pursue this, consider making a version that uses the dock lines for a small boat. This could generate a lot of electricity in a even a small marina.)
All the best,
Editor, Health Tech Insider.