Scientists from the University of Oulu have discovered a new material that is capable of turning different types of energy into electricity. The material is a type of perovskite crystal, a family of crystals already known for being able to turn certain types of energy into electricity.
The new material, known as KBNNO (based on its chemical formula), can convert heat, visible light, and changes in pressure into electricity. Like other perovskite crystals, KBNNO is ferroelectric. The material is organized into electric dipoles, tiny compass-like needles, and when a physical change happens the dipoles misalign, creating a current.
The study, published in Applied Physics Letters, expands on previous studies that showed KBNNO converts electricity from visible light, although this was tested at temperatures a couple of hundred degrees below zero.
The new research was conducted at room temperature. The team studied KBNNO’s ability to turn light into electricity, while also looking at how the material reacted under pressure and when the temperature changed. This was the first time all these properties have been evaluated at once.
The data shows that while the material can use all these changes to make electricity, it is not as good as specific crystals that are more specialized. However, the researchers are actually quite optimistic that they can improve it.
“It is possible that all these properties can be tuned to a maximum point,” said lead author Yang Bai in a statement.
A material like this has several applications in industry, including the ability to charge devices from environmental sources without the need to contantly plug them in.
“This will push the development of the Internet of Things and smart cities, where power-consuming sensors and devices can be energy sustainable,” Bai added.
The researchers are planning to develop a prototype in the next year, and if they can find the right crystal, commercialization of this technology won’t be far down the line.