The "power-generating rubber" (red part)
The "power-generating rubber" (red part)
[Click to enlarge image]

Ricoh Co Ltd announced May 18, 2015, that it has developed a "power-generating rubber," which can generate electricity by using pressure or vibration.

It is a new material that has both the high output of ceramic piezoelectric materials and the flexibility of polymeric resin piezoelectric materials, Ricoh said. The company is preparing for the commercialization of the material for use in sensors, etc.

Currently, there are ceramic and polymeric resin piezoelectric materials. The former has a high output, but it can be easily broken and is heavy. The latter features a high flexibility but can generate only a small amount of electricity.

The power generation capability of the power-generating rubber developed by Ricoh is equivalent to that of a ceramic piezoelectric material while it is more flexible than a polymeric resin piezoelectric material. The company confirmed that the performance of a sheet made of the new material does not deteriorate after a loading test of several million times. Because it is flexible, it can be easily processed, the company said.

However, Ricoh has not yet disclosed the details of the material or experiment data.

According to Ricoh, the power generating mechanism of the rubber is different from those of conventional piezoelectric materials. Currently, its power generation function is being analyzed using calculation at the molecular level at Tokyo University of Science (Associate Professor Takahiro Yamamoto), which is a co-developer.