Momentum - The Magazine for Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering Vol. 4 No. 1 Spring 2019 - Page 16

16 Huachen Cui (first author), Desheng Yao (co-author), Xiaoyu (Rayne) Zheng, and Ryan Hensleigh (co-au- thor) in Zheng's lab. advances in manufacturing technology has led to the requirement of clean-rooms and a complex procedure that produces films and blocks which are connected to electronics after machining. The expensive process and the inherent brittleness of the material, has limited the ability to maximize the material’s potential. Zheng’s team developed a model that allows them to manipulate and design ar- bitrary piezoelectric constants, resulting in the material generating electric charge movement in response to incoming forces and vibrations from any direction, via a set of 3D printable topologies. Unlike conventional piezoelectrics where electric charge movements are prescribed by the intrinsic crystals, the new method allows users to prescribe and program voltage responses to be magnified, reversed or suppressed in any direction. “We have developed a design method and printing platform to freely design the sensitivity and operational modes of piezoelectric materials,” Zheng said. “By programming the 3D active topology, you can achieve pretty much any combi- nation of piezoelectric coefficients within a material, and use them as transducers and sensors that are not only flexible and strong, but also respond to pressure, vibrations and impacts via electric signals that tell the location, magnitude and direction of the impacts within any location of these materials.”