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Transparent crystals with ultrahigh piezoelectricity
It has been difficult to make transparent materials that have extremely high piezoelectricity — a useful property related to the coupling of electric fields and mechanical strain. This hurdle has now been overcome.
Piezoelectric materials show high electromechanical coupling, which means that they can generate large strains if an electric field is applied to them, and can transform external mechanical stimuli into electric charge or voltage1. They are widely used in electronic applications, including sensors, small motors and actuators — devices that convert electrical energy into movement. In addition, their high energy efficiency and ease of miniaturization are driving the development of new technologies, such as energy harvesters for the growing network of Internet-connected devices known as the Internet of Things, actuators for touch screens and microrobots. Writing in Nature, Qiu et al.2 report the preparation of high-performance piezoelectrics that have the long-desired property of near-perfect transparency to light. This breakthrough could lead to devices that combine excellent piezo-electricity with tunable optical properties.