Solar powered laptops are barely here, and — if the hype is to be believed — already headed for obsolescence.
Why so? Because a team of researchers at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have successfully demonstrated a new, “nano-scaled” piezoelectric film’s capacity for turning mechanical pressure into electricity — bringing the (admittedly geeky) dream of perpetually-charged laptop batteries one
small step giant leap closer to reality.
“Piezoelectricity“, as a phenomenon, was discovered in the 19th century and is currently employed in things like electric cigarette lighters. Piezoelectric materials (like crystals or ceramics) have been studied thoroughly over the last century, but research on thin films is relatively new, according to the team’s research lead, Dr. Madhu Bhaskaran. ”Our study focused on thin film coatings, because we believe they hold the only practical possibility of integrating piezoelectrics into existing electronic technology,” she explains. Dr. Bhaskaran hopes to implement her research findings into consumer electronic form factors on a wide scale — but doesn’t stop there. ”The power of piezoelectrics could be integrated into running shoes to charge mobile phones, enable laptops to be powered through typing or even used to convert blood pressure into a power source for pacemakers — essentially creating an everlasting battery.”
Now that the experimental films have proven to produce quantifiable electricity, the only road-blocks to industry acceptance will likely come from the material’s initial cost and resistance from the manufacturers of conventional “rare-Earth” battery packs.
I've been working in motorsports and tuning since 1997, with some the biggest names in the business. In 2008, the work we did on a hybrid/EV concept car attracted the attention of Gas 2 editors, and they invited me to join the team. I couldn't resist!