Scientists have developed a thin, flexible material that generates electricity when stretched or compressed, an advance that may pave the way for smart clothing or self-powered pacemakers.
The specially designed rubber, developed by researchers at Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) is able to convert mechanical movements into electrical charges.
The trick behind the generated current is the internal polarisation which changes when the rubber film is mechanically stressed, scientists said.
This effect is used in sound pick-ups on analogue record players, for instance: the needle is guided through the grooves in the record in such a way as to generate mechanical vibrations.
In a piezoelectric crystal, these vibrations are converted into electrical impulses, which in turn can be amplified and transformed into sound waves.
For a long time, the piezoelectric effect was only known for crystals. As these are heavy and solid, the effect could only be used in certain applications.
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