Scientists Discover Electricity Generation From Tears With Piezoelectricity

Lysozyme, a protein which is found in tears and egg whites, can generate electricity when applied with pressure. This is what scientists in Ireland have discovered at the University of Limerick, Ireland using piezoelectricity. 

 

piezoelectricity

Credit: http://www.techandfacts.com/worlds-smallest-piezoelectric-generator/

 

What is Piezoelectricity?

The term refers to an electrical charge in certain solid materials like quartz and other crystals, and certain biological materials such as DNA and bone, that occurs when pressure is applied. This pressure transpires during mechanical stress or vibration. An example of piezoelectricity at work is when our cell phones vibrate, among other things like ultrasound imaging.

Piezoelectricity was discovered by two brothers in 1880: Pierre Currie and Jacques Currie. It wasn’t until 1917 that the practical application of piezoelectricity came into play (due to mathematical complexity of the subject), when Paul Langevin created an ultrasonic transducer (device that produces sound waves) for submarines to calculate underwater distance. 

What is Lysozyme?

Lysozyme is an enzyme that attacks the cell walls of bacteria to protect our bodies from infection. It is found in our tears, saliva, and other bodily fluids. 

Irish Researchers First to Discover Piezoelectricity in Lysozyme 

As the heading suggests, the team of researchers at Bernal Institute at the University of Limerick are the first to discover that lysozyme crystals can generate electricity with applied pressure. The protein lysozyme isn’t newly discovered, but the generation of electricity from it is. And because this is a biological structure, it means it’s non-toxic, as opposed to other materials used to generate electricity with the piezoelectric effect. 

So, why is this lysozyme discovery so important? Well, it’s quite simple. Because it is non-toxic and can be produced from the human body, it has the potential for game-changing applications like medical implants. With this lysozyme electricity generation, there is the potential for an alternative way for the releasing of drugs in the body. The energy methods today for biomedical devices contain toxic chemicals like lead.

Sources:

https://phys.org/news/2017-10-scientists-electricity.html

https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/201403/physicshistory.cfm