Momentum - The Magazine for Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering Vol. 4 No. 1 Spring 2019 | Page 15

13 3D printing of piezoelectrics an industry game-changer The piezoelectric materials that inhabit everything from our cell phones to musical greeting cards may be getting an upgrade thanks to work discussed in the journal Na- ture Materials released online Jan 21. Xiaoyu ‘Rayne’ Zheng, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, and a member of the Macromolecules Innovation Institute, and his team have developed methods to 3D print piezoelectric materials that can be custom-designed to convert movement, impact and stress from any direction to electrical energy. “Piezoelectric materials convert strain and stress into electric charges,” Zheng explained. The piezoelectric materials come in only a few defined shapes and are made of brittle crystal and ceramic – the kind that require a clean room to manufacture. Zheng’s team has developed a technique to 3D print these materials so they are not restricted by shape or size. The material can also be activated – providing the next generation of intelligent infrastructures and smart materials for tactile sensing, impact and vibration monitor- ing, energy harvesting, and other applications. Unleash the freedom to design piezoelectrics Piezoelectric materials were originally discovered in the 19th century. Since then the ROSAIRE BUSHEY MECHANICAL ENGINEERING