Momentum - The Magazine for Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering Vol. 4 No. 1 Spring 2019 | Page 15
3D printing of
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
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