ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Could Energy Produced by Your Body Be Used to Power a Railway Station?

Standards for Piezoelectricity

New York, Aug 17, 2006

Even at rest, a single body emits approximately one hundred watts of energy into the environment. Could energy produced by the human body in motion then be harvested to power a computer, cell phone, or railway station? Piezoelectricity—the same technology that makes an electric cigarette lighter spark—is now being studied as a means of doing just that.

Piezoelectricity is energy produced by quartz and other crystals in response to applied mechanical pressure. Last week, the East Japan Railway Company, a subdivision of Japan’s national railway system, concluded a pilot test that placed quartz-filled piezo pads under the surface of the floor of its Shibuya station to recycle the pumping motion of commuters’ footsteps into energy to power parts of the station. Similarly, a research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense is exploring the possibility of embedding “heel-strike” piezoelectric generators into soldiers' boots to supply power to communications equipment.

In the international arena, standardization of piezoelectricity falls under the helm of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which has been active in the field for many years. The technology is a driving force behind countless everyday items, including quartz clocks, loudspeakers, computers, inkjet printers, and medical imaging devices. IEC 60758 Ed. 3.0 en:2004, Synthetic Quartz Crystal - Specifications and Guide to the Use, is a recent standard developed by the IEC that outlines requirements for the use of synthetic quartz crystals used in piezoelectric applications for frequency control and selection.

To assist in the design of surface-mounted piezoelectric devices, the IEC developed IEC 61240 Ed. 1.0 b:1994, Piezoelectric Devices - Preparation of Outline Drawings of Surface-Mounted Devices (SMD) for Frequency Control and Selection - General Rules. The document sets down general rules for drawing the dimensional and geometrical characteristics of surface-mounted piezoelectric devices in a way that will ensure mechanical interchangeability. The standard served as the basis for the four-part standard, IEC 61837, Surface Mounted Piezoelectric Devices for Frequency Control and Selection - Standard Outlines and Terminal Lead Connections, which covers standard outlines and terminal lead connections as they apply to surface-mounted piezoelectric devices. The individual parts of the standard address plastic moulded, ceramic, metal, and hybrid enclosures respectively.

If research and development continue to drive innovation, researchers say that in the future, piezoelectric networks under the surface of our floors and roads could capture and recycle energy produced by people and cars into a clean, environmentally-friendly source of power.

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