A mineral that can turn sunlight, heat and movement into electricity at the same time has been discovered by scientists in Finland. If they are able to modify the properties of the mineral (KBNNO) to make it more efficient, it could lead to far more efficient energy sources for portable and wearable gadgets.
KBNNO has a perovskite crystal structure. Many other minerals in the perovskite family have previously shown promise for generating different types of energy, but never at the same time. For example, one type maybe good for use in solar cells, while another could be used to get energy from motion and heat.
In a study published in Applied Physics Letters, researchers from the University of Oulu have announced a new perovskite that can harness multiple energy sources all at once. Experiments using KBNNO showed it was reasonably good at generating electricity from pressure and heat – but not as good as other perovskites.
More importantly, however, they showed KBNNO could be modified to amplify these properties. Lead author Yang Bai explained: "It is possible that all these properties can be tuned to a maximum point."
Because of this, the researchers say KBNNO "may be considered a proper and capable candidate to trigger developments of all-in-one hybrid energy harvesting and multi-functional sensing devices based on only a single piece of material".
The team is now trying to create a prototype energy harnessing device – which they believe should be ready in the next year. If successful, they say it could be commercially available in just a few years.
"This will push the development of the Internet of Things and smart cities, where power-consuming sensors and devices can be energy sustainable," Bai said.