Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - 38

Power & Energy
the energy storage capabilities of largerscale
batteries. Appli cations include personal
electronic devices, wearable technology,
and car audio systems.
The material is based on a " relaxor
ferroelectric " - a ceramic material that
undergoes a rapid mechanical or electronic
response to an external electric
field and is commonly used as a capacitor
in applications like ultrasonics, pressure
sensors, and voltage generators.
The applied field drives changes in the
orientation of the electrons in the material.
At the same time, the field drives a
change in the energy stored in the materials,
making them a good candidate for
use beyond a small-scale capacitor. The
problem to solve is how to optimize the
ferroelectric so that it can be charged to
high voltages and discharged very rapidly
- billions of times or more - without
sustaining damage that would render it
unsuitable for long-term use in applications
such as computers and vehicles.
The researchers accomplished this by
introducing local defects that allowed it to
withstand bigger voltages. Placing a ferroelectric
material between two electrodes
and increasing the electric field causes
charge to build up. During discharge, the
amount of energy available depends on
how strongly the material's electrons orient,
or become polarized, in response to
the electric field. Most such materials typically
cannot withstand a large electric field
before the ma terial fails. The fundamental
challenge, therefore, is to find a way to
increase the maximum possible electric
field without sacrificing the polarization.
The researchers turned to an ap -
proach that they had previously developed
to " turn off " conductivity in a material.
By bombarding a thin film with
high-energy charged particles known as
Stretchable Thermoelectric Generators
The organic composite material is soft, stretchable, and has good thermoelectric properties
for many wearable applications.
Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
A
soft and stretchable organic thermoelectric
module has been created
that can harvest energy from body heat.
The breakthrough was enabled by a new
composite material that may have widespread
use in smart clothing, wearable
electronics, and electronic skin.
The team combined three materials:
the conducting polymer PEDOT:PSS, a
water-soluble polyure thane rubber, and
an ionic liquid. The result is a composite
with unique properties. The PEDOT:
PSS gives it thermoelectric properties,
the rubber provides elasticity, and the
ionic liquid ensures softness.
PEDOT:PSS is the most common conducting
polymer and is used in many ap -
plications due to its good thermoelectric
properties. But thick polymer film is too
hard and brittle to be successfully in te -
grated into wearable electronics. The
new material is 100 times softer and 100
times more stretchable than PEDOT:PSS.
The ability to control the structure of
the material both at the nanoscale and
the microscale enabled the combination
of properties of the different materials in
a composite. The new composite is also
printable. It was formulated by waterbased
solution blending and can be
printed onto various surfaces. When the
surface flexes or folds, the composite follows
the motion. The process to manufacture
the composite is inexpensive and
environmentally friendly.
The researchers see a range of possibilities
using the material to create soft and
elastic organic conducting materials.
Ionic liquids, conducting polymers, and
traditional elastomers can be combined
to produce new nanocomposites for many
applications such as thermoelectric generators,
supercapacitors, batteries, sensors,
and in wearable and implantable applications
that require thick, elastic, and electrically
conducting materials.
For more information, contact Nara Kim
at nara.kim@liu.se; +46 11 36 33 23.
The material is stretchable in two dimensions. (Image: Thor Balkhed)
38
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Tech Briefs, August 2021
ions, they were able to introduce isolated
defects. The defects trap the material's
electrons, preventing their motion and
decreasing the film's conductivity by
orders of magnitude.
The team first fabricated thin films of a
prototypical relaxor ferroelectric called
lead magnesium niobite-lead titanate.
Then, they targeted the films with highenergy
helium ions that knocked target
ions from their sites to create point de fects.
Measurements showed that the ion-bombarded
film had more than twice the energy
storage density of previously reported
values and 50% higher efficiencies.
The same ion beam approach could also
improve other dielectric materials to im -
prove energy storage and provide re -
searchers with a tool to repair problems
in already synthesized materials.
For more information, contact Laurel
Kellner at LKellner@lbl.gov; 510-486-5375.
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Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021

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Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - Intro
Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - Sponsor
Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - Cov1
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