The researchers report on the use of nanoindentation to characterize in situ the voltage and current generation of piezoelectric thin films. This work presents the controlled observation of nanoscale piezoelectric voltage and current generation, allowing accurate quantification and mapping of force function variations.
The team characterizes both continuous thin films and lithographically patterned nanoislands with constrained interaction area. The influence of size on energy generation parameters is reported, demonstrating that nanoislands can exhibit more effective current generation than continuous films. This quantitative finding suggests that further research into the impact of nanoscale patterning of piezoelectric thin films may yield an improved materials platform for integrated microscale energy scavenging systems.
The breakthrough was made by combining piezoelectrics, materials capable of turning pressure into electricity, with thin film technology, the basis of microchip manufacturing.
The use of piezoelectrics means that portable devices with touch screens like iPads and iPhones could be recharged through everyday activities like typing. It also means that in future pacemakers could be powered by an individual wearer's blood pressure.