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Up and coming: Hybrid piezoelectric photovoltaics

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What it is

Nylon fibers or ribbons with a thin, flexible photovoltaic film coating over polyvinylidene fluoride and ceramic piezoelectric materials. Professor Elias Siores, director of Research and Innovation at the University of Bolton in the U.K., developed the patented material with his research team.

How it works

Any movement stimulates the piezoelectric material to generate voltage, and the photovoltaic cells turn solar energy into usable power. “Since this hybrid material is able to transform both mechanical energy and electromagnetic radiation into electricity, the efficiency of the hybrid device in capturing trace amounts of energy from the environment and transforming it into electrical energy is much higher than that of individual systems,” says Siores.

Possible applications

Power for numerous small-scale devices. “The applications horizon is vast once the technology is commercialized,” says Siores. “Interactive fabrics with embedded and autonomous electronic systems can provide solutions in medicine and health care, marine and auto fabrication, architecture, sports, the military and other areas.”

Obstacles to development

Improving efficiency, reducing raw material and processing costs, and attracting “funding and partnership with an appropriate fabric developer and a range of designers.”

Michael Lotti is a freelance writer based in St. Paul, Minn.

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