From: University of Limerick
Published October 2, 2017 01:11 PM

Irish Scientists Discover Method to Produce Electricity from Tears

A team of scientists at University of Limerick has discovered that applying pressure to a protein found in egg whites and tears can generate electricity. The researchers from the Bernal Institute observed that crystals of lysozyme, a model protein that is abundant in egg whites of birds as well as in the tears, saliva and milk of mammals can generate electricity when pressed. Their report was published on October 2 in the journal, Applied Physics Letters.

The ability to generate electricity by applying pressure, known as direct piezoelectricity, is a property of materials such as quartz that can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy and vice versa. Such materials are used in a variety of applications ranging from resonators and vibrators in mobile phones to deep ocean sonars and ultrasound imaging. Bone, tendon and wood are long known to possess piezoelectricity.

“While piezoelectricity is used all around us, the capacity to generate electricity from this particular protein had not been explored. The extent of the piezoelectricity in lysozyme crystals is significant. It is of the same order of magnitude found in quartz. However, because it is a biological material, it is non toxic so it could have many innovative applications such as electroactive anti-microbial coatings for medical implants,” explained Aimee Stapleton, the lead author and an Irish Research Council EMBARK Postgraduate Fellow in the Department of Physics and Bernal Institute of UL.

Crystals of lysozyme are easy to make from natural sources. “The high precision structure of lysozyme crystals has been known since 1965,” said structural biologist at UL and co-author Professor Tewfik Soulimane.
“In fact, it is the second protein structure and the first enzyme structure that was ever solved,” he added, “but we are the first to use these crystals to show the evidence of piezoelectricity”.

Read more at University of Limerick

Image: Aimee Stapleton, IRC EMBARK Postgraduate Fellow at University of Limerick and lead author of The Direct Piezoelectric Effect in the Globular Protein Lysozyme published on October 2 in Applied Physics Letters. (Credit: Photo by Sean Curtin, True Media)

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