Piezoskin is a start-up based in Lecce and established as a spin-off from the Center for Biomolecular Nanotechnologies (CBN) of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT). The CBN has developed over the last 5 years technologies for harvesting energy from mechanical sources such as vibrations and fluid flows. To this aim CBN has developed the whole fabrication protocol for soft piezoelectric MEMS (Micro Electro- Mechanical Systems), from the design to device production, characterization and test. Based on the experience accumulated in these technologies a team of researchers have recently founded the start-up company. Piezoskin aims to transfer to the market the CBN-IIT research results working in close collaboration with the CBN researchers and facilities

The business idea of Piezoskin, relying on the strong nanotechnologies background of the team, is related to the design, production and sale of an innovative device able to generate electrical energy through air and fluids flows; it is a flexible matrix of mini piezoelectric flags generating electrical energy (each flag generates power in the order of μWs-mWs) through the deformation induced by air/fluid flows even at very low speed.

The flexible component introduced by Piezoskin is easily conformable (customizable) to any kind of surface, in air and in marine environment, and it can be used on the interior walls of highway galleries and subway tunnels, in indoor and outdoor environments and in places where standard renewable energies products can’t be adopted. Exterior house walls, roofs, interior cavities and crawlspaces, air ducts, external infrastructures such as street lamps, etc., could represent some other great opportunities to install the device and produce clean energy. A harvester capable to provide electrical power by the action of the water currents and waves energy will give the opportunity of green energy in close proximity of coasts, on break-waters, off-shore platforms, sea buoys and even on surface of boats. The renewable energy device might contribute to generate electrical green energy using environmental sources, decreasing the usage of fossil fuels and consequently CO2 emissions.

During last years, Piezoskin researcher team has developed a consolidated fabrication protocol of piezoelectric energy harvesting system. The devices are based on a commercial polymer film (Kapton 100HN, from DuPont) as substrate, and fabricated starting from optimized reactive sputtering depositions, which allow the growth of highly flexible thin films structure, composed of Molybdenum (Mo, metal electrode layer) and Aluminum Nitride (AlN, piezoelectric layer). Then, the thin films structure is patterned by micro fabrication steps, involving photolithography, wet and dry etching processes. All the manufacturing procedures have been properly developed by the research team in a controlled environment and executed in laboratories and facilities at the CBN-IIT. The processes are well defined and repeatable. The advantages of AlN thin film, in comparison to other piezoelectric materials exploited in harvesting technologies (such as PZT or PVDF), have been widely demonstrated: good piezoelectric coefficients, low dielectric constant, no need of poling or thermal processes, biocompatibility.

With appropriate R&D processes, concerning the research of more performing piezoelectric AlN thin films and a properly optimized geometry of single flag realized in polymeric Kapton foil, the team has designed and fabricated a prototype of piezoelectric flag: the device has a total active area (area in which the AlN is patterned) of 0,36 cm2, while the total length of the flexible substrate is 1 cm. Experimental tests have been performed by a wind tunnel tool, with laminar air velocity from 0 to 16 m/s. The results have demonstrated a great efficiency of this prototype: it demonstrated a cut-in speed of 0.1 m/s, with a rated air speed of 6 m/s, at which the prototype generates a 4 W/m2 power density.

For more info please visit: Piezoskin.com