Engineers have developed a technology for 3D printing piezoelectric materials

3d printing, a diverse tool for engineers, designers and students | Aaron Jenings | TEDxVarna

Engineers have developed a technology for 3D printing piezoelectric materials

A team of engineers unveiled a way to 3D print intelligent piezoelectric materials that can be customized to convert vibration, pressure, or shock in any direction into electrical energy.

Piezoelectric materials were discovered as early as the 19th century, but since then their production process has required a clean room and complex, costly manipulations. Moreover, the resulting products are quite fragile, which limits the potential for their practical application. However, researchers at Virginia Polytechnic University have unveiled technology to make piezoelectric materials of any shape, size, and stiffness..

For this, a highly sensitive ink was synthesized, consisting of piezoelectric crystals placed in gels sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. As a result, a white solution is formed, from which high-resolution three-dimensional structures are made using a light 3D printer, accurate to a fraction of the diameter of a human hair..

By manipulating ink composition and product structure, you can adjust the thickness, mass, stiffness and energy absorption rate of 3D printed piezoelectric materials. Moreover, their sensitivity is 5 times higher than that of flexible polymer analogs. The use of digital technologies makes it possible to achieve the required characteristics, modes of operation and conversion factors. This allows them to be used not only for generating electricity, but also as sensors. Vibration, shock and pressure generate electrical signals that can be used to determine the location, size and direction of impact.

The engineers claim that the ability to achieve the desired mechanical, electrical and thermal properties will significantly reduce the time and cost of fabricating materials for practical applications. The team printed and demonstrated energy harvesting products in the form of rings for curved surfaces, boxing gloves for determining impact force, and models for converting underwater vibrations into electricity. Scientists expect the technology to spur the development of robotics, tactile sensing, and smart infrastructure to track the location of all objects that touch it..

Earlier we also wrote about the invention other technology 3D printing, in which instead of sequentially overlaying one-dimensional layers of material, models are formed by exposing a liquid resin to two different types of light, which accelerates process 100 times.

text: Ilya Bauer, photo and video: Virginia Tech