A Look into Some of the Unique Utilizations of Piezoelectric Ceramics
Over the past two years, the world has both progressed and stalled in ways we could have never imagined. As the world appeared to shut down, people seized opportunities to learn, invent, and experiment. Through all the uncertainty, one thing remained clear – we will move forward, thanks to the bright minds that harness a resilient attitude to improve. In this article, we will examine some of the creative, practical, and novelty uses of piezoceramics and piezoelectric products that have surfaced over the last few years. There are constantly new ideas and attempts at integrating piezo elements as we learn more about piezoelectric ceramics and experiment with their capabilities. A future with piezo components is certainly a bright one.
Perhaps the most commonly explored use of piezoelectric ceramics is seen in energy harvesting applications. Given the piezoceramic ability to harness mechanical energy and convert it into useable electrical energy, piezoelectric ceramics are an ideal energy source. The ability to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy is the principle behind piezoelectric actuators. Piezo actuators can come in all shapes and sizes, from piezo tubes and piezoelectric rings to piezo ceramic discs and piezo stack actuators. Let’s take a look at a common proposal for piezo elements in energy harvesting piezoceramic applications using the mechanical pressure from walking or driving.
Piezo actuators positioned in the floor of walkways, parking lots, or streets can harness the weight of a person walking or a car driving and convert that to electrical energy. The weight or mechanical input of a person or car will trigger the piezo actuator and produce a proportional electrical output. A supermarket in the UK implemented kinetic plates with piezo actuators in their parking lot, which uses the weight of shopper’s cars to drive a generator that helps to power the store. Many car dealerships have also explored the option of utilizing piezo elements in the floors to power the dealership using the weight of the cars and foot traffic. There are obviously many factors to weigh when considering such a scale, but the potential for piezoelectric ceramics in energy harvesting is growing quickly.
Piezo actuators are favored for their versatility, compact size, fast acceleration, and position accuracy without lacking power. Another huge benefit is piezo elements have no electromagnetic interference, nor are they influenced by a magnetic field. All these factors make piezoelectric products, specifically piezo actuators, an ever-growing tool for medical applications. Due to their ability to be extremely small and compact while remaining extremely accurate, piezoelectric ceramics are being increasingly implemented in medical devices, machines, and equipment. One design being explored is the utilization of needle-free injections using piezo actuators, specifically a piezo stack. Piezo stack actuators are used to rapidly dispense a micron-scale stream of fluid that can penetrate the skin. The piezo stack actuator uses pressure to eject a liquid drug through a fine nozzle at a high velocity for penetration. Piezo stack actuators offer extremely powerful, yet precise movement, making piezo stacks a wise choice for needle free drug delivery.
Many other novelty ideas utilizing piezoelectric ceramics exist in the commercial space, with the hope of improving the performance, function, or efficiency of everyday products. One example is an award winning piezoceramic design from a group of international designers who proposed the use of piezo actuator nanofibers, or piezo bending actuators, to heat the water in the shower. The project, called the piezo shower, used the friction of the water flow to create heat. The designers lined the shower’s tubes with a layer of piezo bending actuators. As water passed through the tubes, the friction or water pressure of the water circulation in the pipes generated electricity that was transformed into heat. This heat could be used to increase the shower water temperature. While the piezo shower isn’t seen in everyday homes, this is a small window into the unlimited economic and environmental advantages of piezoceramics.
There is undeniable potential for piezo elements to eventually be found in products, devices, and equipment across every industry. To learn more about customizable piezo actuators, piezoelectric sensors, and piezo transducers for your application, please contact Piezo Direct at 650-375-7003 or [email protected] to learn more about custom piezoceramics. Piezo Direct is a leading piezoelectric company that offers a wide range of piezoelectric ceramics and specializes in highly intricate custom piezo designs.