Researchers from Virginia Tech manufactured free-form, perovskite-based piezoelectric nanocomposites with complex three-dimensional architectures
A team of researchers from Virginia Tech developed methods to 3D print piezoelectric materials with designed anisotropy and directional response. Piezoelectric materials convert strain and stress into electric charges and come in only a few defined shapes and are made of brittle crystal and ceramic. The new 3D printing technique allows these materials to be produced in any shape or size. The material can also be activated with the help of the next generation of intelligent infrastructures and smart materials for tactile sensing, impact and vibration monitoring, energy harvesting, and other applications. The research was published in the journal Nature Materials on January 21, 2019.
The team developed a model that allows to manipulate and design arbitrary piezoelectric constants, which further results in the material generating electric charge movement in response to incoming forces and vibrations from any direction through a set of 3D printable topologies. In conventional piezoelectrics electric charge movements are prescribed by the intrinsic crystals. However, the new method allows to prescribe and program voltage responses to be magnified, reversed or suppressed in any direction. The team synthesized a class of highly sensitive piezoelectric inks that can be sculpted into complex three-dimensional features with ultraviolet light. The inks consists of highly concentrated piezoelectric nanocrystals that are bonded with UV-sensitive gels that form a solution, which is a milky mixture resembling melted crystal. The ink can be printed with a high-resolution digital light 3D printer.
The team demonstrated the 3D printed materials at a micro level. The technique can be used to tailor the architecture to make them more flexible for use in applications such as energy harvesting. The material has sensitivities that are five times higher than flexible piezoelectric polymers. Moreover, the rigidity and shape of the material can be modified and produced as a thin sheet. The team developed the material into wearable devices such as rings and insoles to record impact forces and monitor the health of the user. According to Shashank Priya, associate VP for research at Penn State and former professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech, the ability to achieve the desired mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties are expected to significantly reduce the time and effort needed to develop practical materials.
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