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UNSW research to bring down manufacturing costs of accelerometers

According to an announcement made, a new research will pave the way for accelerometers to be produced in a much cheaper way at much less energy.

Chemical engineering researchers from the University of New South Wales and RMIT University have discovered a revolutionary way to bring down costs and save energy in the manufacture of accelerometers.

An accelerometer is an electromechanical device used to measure acceleration forces, whether static like the continuous force of gravity or dynamic as the case with many mobile devices to sense movement or vibrations.

Accelerometers are used to detect motion in devices such as mobile phones. Smartphones and other mobile technology are able to identify their orientation through the use of it.

This enables the use of a compass app in the smartphone because it can tell which direction the phone is pointing at.

The research team has found a way to ‘print’ large-scale sheets of two-dimensional piezoelectric material, enabling it to be placed directly onto silicon chips.

Piezoelectric materials convert applied mechanical force or strain into electrical energy. They form the basis of sound and pressure sensors as well as embedded devices that are powered by vibration or bending.

One domestic application is the ‘piezo’ lighter used for gas BBQs and stovetops. It creates the spark that ignites the gas.

Piezoelectric materials can also take advantage of the small voltages generated by tiny mechanical displacement, vibration, bending or stretching to power miniaturised devices.

The piezoelectric material has been manufactured in large chucks of crystals, until now, making it impossible for them to be integrated with silicon chips or be used in large-scale surface manufacturing.

Because of this limitation, piezo accelerometer devices have required separate, expensive components to be embedded onto silicon substrate, adding significant manufacturing costs.

Examples of piezo accelerometer devices include vehicle air bag triggers or those devices that recognise orientation changes in mobile phone.

The new 2D printing technique has paved the way for gallium phosphate (GaPO4) to be placed on silicon substrates, or any other surface, on a large scale using low-cost, low-temperature manufacturing processes.

Gallium phosphate is an important piezoelectric material commonly being used in pressure sensors and microgram-scale mass measurement.

The work done here was built on past successes. The liquid-metal material deposition technique that was developed recently to create 2D films of GaPO4 through and easy, two-step process was adopted.

This simple, industry-compatible procedure to print large surface area 2D piezoelectric films onto any substrate offers tremendous opportunities for the development of piezo-sensors and energy harvesters.

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