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By John Toon/Holly Evarts

Material could be woven into clothing to capture wasted energy

Researchers from Georgia Tech and Columbia Engineering have reported the first experimental observation of piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). The discovery produced a unique electric generator and mechanical sensing devices that are optically transparent, extremely light, and very bendable and stretchable.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, the researchers described the mechanical generation of electricity from the two-dimensional MoS2 material. The piezoelectric effect in this material had previously been predicted theoretically.

molybdenum disulfide (MoS2)Researchers have observed piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). The material could be the basis for electric generator and mechanical sensing devices. (Photo: Rob Felt)

In piezoelectricity, stretching or compressing a material causes it to generate an electrical voltage. Observing this property in two-dimensional materials opens the potential for new types of mechanically controlled electronic devices.

“This material — just a single layer of atoms — could be made as a wearable device, perhaps integrated into clothing to convert energy from your body movement to electricity and power wearable sensors or medical devices, or perhaps supply enough energy to charge your cellphone in your pocket,” said James Hone, professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia.

“Proof of the piezoelectric effect and piezotronic effect adds new functionalities to these two-dimensional materials,” said Zhong Lin Wang, Regents Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. “The materials community is excited about molybdenum disulfide, and demonstrating the piezoelectric effect in it adds a new facet to the material.”

Wang’s group pioneered the use of piezoelectric generators for converting mechanical energy into electricity. His group is also developing piezotronic devices, which use piezoelectric charges to control the flow of current.

The research was sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences.


Zhong Lin Wang

is a Regents Professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering.

Georgia Tech is home to more than 2,500 faculty members who conduct scientific and engineering research in hundreds of different research areas.

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