Piezoelectricity is the charge which accumulates in certain solid materials (notably crystals, certain ceramics, and biological matter such as bone, DNA and various proteins) in response to applied mechanical stress. Simply put it is energy that is released from certain substances when they are put under pressure. One of the most common uses of piezoelectricity in consumer products is the electric cigarette lighter. The electric cigarette lighter contains a piezoelectric crystal.
On the small scale piezoelectricity already has a minimal effect in reducing our reliance on manufactured electricity. Items like loudspeakers, inkjet printers, buzzers, and x-ray machines use piezoelectricity in the place of normal electricity to complete small tasks. But can the principles of piezoelectricity be used for something more substantial? Here are what some companies and places are trying to do:
- An assemblyman in California has proposed installing a piezoelectric system under the state’s highway.
- Innowattech is developing a form of piezoelectric generator that can be placed under roadways, railways, runways and pedestrian walkways. The energy generated can then be used for local power needs or routed into the grid.
- The city of Toulouse, France uses power generating tiles in the sidewalk to power streetlights.
- Soon simply walking could generate enough energy to power your cell phone