It might look like some kind of food wrap, but this roll of red rubber is rather more special than that: it’s a new flexible material that creates electricity as it deforms.
Materials that create electricity when they’re subjected to pressure are nothing new. Known as piezoelectrics, they’re typically made either of solid ceramics that produce respectable quantities of electric charge or flexible polymers that yield only a little in the way of electrons. This new material, created by Ricoh, manages to be more flexible than its polymer-based stablemates, while also producing as much electricity as ceramic piezoelectrics.
Ricoh is, sadly, a little cagey about how it works. It claims to have used molecular-level analysis “using leading computational chemistry” to create the material, and also claims that it’s easy to manufacture, “because it is soft, and does not require a high-temperature process like ceramics.” But the exact details of the material remain under wraps.
It’s easy to see how the material could prove useful, though, being used to coat objects that move or vibrate a lot in order to harness power from their motion. Now, Ricoh just need to turn it into a commercial products—something it claims to be working on right now. [Ricoh via Nikkei Technology via Engadget]