Scientists from Switzerland presented a method for generating electricity from wood. To do this, they changed the chemical composition of the material.
Researchers at the Swiss Higher Technical School have created chemically modified wood and made it more compressible by turning it into a mini-generator. When compressed, the material generates an electrical voltage. Such wood can serve as a biosensor or building material that generates energy.
Ingo Burgert and his team have shown that wood is much more than just a building material. In their experiments, they improved the properties of the wood in order to use it in new fields of application. For example, they have already developed high-strength, water-repellent and magnetizable wood.
Now, in conjunction with the Empa Research Group, the team has used a single chemical and biological process to generate electrical voltage from a wooden sponge. In doing so, they enhance the piezoelectric effect of wood.
The researchers explained that when a piezoelectric material deforms elasticly, it generates an electrical voltage. Measurement technology detects this phenomenon using sensors that generate a charge signal under mechanical stress. However, many of the materials commonly used for these sensors are unsuitable for biomedical applications. For example, lead zirconate titanate (PZT) cannot be used on the skin due to the toxic lead.
Wood also has a natural piezoelectric effect, but only generates very low electrical voltages. However, scientists were able to increase its stress by changing the chemical composition of the wood.