Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Portable electricity, life-like prosthetics on the way

Research team hopes to put theory into practice with $1M grant

The technology that makes a cell phone vibrate is the same technology that provides more natural movements to prosthetic limbs.

A University of Houston research team is working on recreating and enhancing this technological effect, which, if successful, could result in better prosthetic movements and also provide instant electrical power for soldiers and others through the simple act of walking.

Pradeep Sharma, a UH mechanical engineering professor, is leading the team to create a “piezoelectric on steroids.” Piezoelectricity is the ability of some materials to generate an electric charge when placed under stress. This pioneering technology already is more useful than many people realize. Piezoelectrics are involved in everything from making an airbag deploy to how a lighter produces a flame.

Although piezoelectrics are naturally occurring, they have their limits. If an application requires a level of energy conversion not found in a naturally occurring piezoelectric, a composite consisting of piezoelectrics and non-piezoelectrics must be made. Sharma and his team are creating piezoelectrics from man-made materials that have no piezoelectric property.

“If you press on a piezoelectric, or apply mechanical force, it will produce a voltage,” Sharma said. “Or, if you apply a voltage or electrical force to it, the object will bend or change its shape.”

An engineered piezoelectric strip placed in the boot of a soldier would generate electricity and power the increasing number of devices that soldiers carry. The walking motion produces force or deformation of the strip, which generates electricity with every step. The highly customizable piezoelectrics also could enable the creation of prosthetics that come closer to offering both the flexibility and the strength of real limbs. Current prosthetic limbs face challenges in range and movement by the two types of naturally occurring piezoelectrics, ceramic and polymer.

“Ceramic piezoelectrics are very hard and brittle, and don’t allow for a lot of movement,” Sharma said. “They take a lot of electrical energy for a lot of motion. Polymers are better for large forces of motion, but don’t have a lot of strength. So, you can stretch adequately, but may not even be able to pick up an egg. Nature has given us some elements, and now we’re going beyond and designing materials from the ground up. We wanted to combine the best qualities of the two types of piezoelectrics, among other things.”

Sharma has been working to refine his theoretical ideas for two years. His research team includes Ramanan Krishnamoorti of the UH Cullen College of Engineering, Boris Yakobson of Rice University and Zoubeida Ounaies of Texas A&M University. Krishanmoorit and Ounaies will begin putting the research to the test with the help of a $1.22 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

“The real applications of this technology are going to come from the fact that you don’t have to depend on existing piezoelectrics,” Sharma said. “You can create materials, using certain nanoscale effects, that give higher energy conversion. These are basically piezoelectrics on steroids.”

Ann Holdsworth | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging
25.10.2016 | Colorado State University

nachricht Did you know that infrared heating is an essential part of automotive manufacture?
25.10.2016 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

3-D-printed structures shrink when heated

26.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow

26.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

First results of NSTX-U research operations

26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>