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Throughout history, hustlers, tricksters, and gamblers have become the craftiest mathematicians our world has ever seen. Among more tangible pursuits, little has turned more scientists into charlatans — or more charlatans into scientists — than the allure of harvesting free energy from the environment. The prospect of turning ambient vibration into the smooth flow of electrons is becoming closer to our grasp. A new piezoelectric design, based on stacked layers of PVDF polymer tuned to energy-absorbing and electron-dispensing perfection, has just been laid on the table by Singaporean scientists.
The innovation from Singapore was to optimize the number and thickness of the layers to create the lowest possible electrical impedance, while simultaneously minimizing the amount of aluminum coating which otherwise parasitically stiffens the whole works. Their models showed that a 22-layer structure could generate an energy output anywhere from five to 400 times higher than a single layer design of similar girth or heft.
When the researchers got to testing an actual device, they found it performed in line with what their models had told them — often a rare event. They hope to be able to turn the device into a replacement for batteries in small-scale electronics.But as we know, getting ahold of some power, keeping it handy for when you need, and then actually sourcing it can be very different problems.