Irish scientists have recently made a groundbreaking discovery that involves tapping of a biomolecule to produce an impressive amount of electricity. The researchers at the University of Limerick (UL), Republic of Ireland, feel that this method could in future lead to novel ways of powering devices like smartphones, motion detectors and mobile phone speakers in cars and video games.
The scientists at UL’s Bernal Institute have discovered that by tapping glycine, a biomolecule, which is the simplest amino acid classified as a piezoelectric material could generate electricity in a way that is both economically viable and also environmentally sustainable way. Glycine is abundant in all agro and forestry residues and does not contain the toxic elements like lead or lithium. The research was recently published in a leading international journal, Nature Materials on December 4, 2017.
The full paper is entitled, Control of Piezoelectricity in Amino Acids by Supramolecular Packing and is authored by Sarah Guerin, Aimee Stapleton, and Andrei L Kholkin. The contributing authors also include Drahomir Chovan, Rabah Mouras, Ning Liu, Cian McKeown, Matthew Gleeson, Christophe Silien, Fernando M F Rhen, Mohamed R Noor, Syed A M Tofail, Tewfik Soulimane, and Damien Thompson.
The lead author who is a post-graduate student at the Department of Physics and the Bernal Institute, UL, Sarah Guerin stated that it was exciting that the tiny molecule could generate so much electricity. She added that they used computer models in order to predict the electrical response of a range of crystals, and also grew crystals of glycine in alcohol. Dr Damien Thompson, Sarah’s Ph.D. supervisor, added that the predictive modeling could tell what kind of crystals to grow and where to cut or press the crystals to generate electricity.
Meanwhile, Professor Luuk van der Weilen, Director of the Bernal Institute, reiterated that the current findings pointed at a pragmatic and affordable approach for electricity generation.