An ill prepared political science student was sitting for his chemistry exam. For the question define a free radical he wrote, a wild protestor.

What the 18th Century and today's touch screens have in common

Could an acoustic violin produce music without strings? May sound like Sci-Fi but will soon be a reality. That's the piezoelectric effect.

Let's just start by saying that there exists a 3-D printed violin based on this. The sound of the violin comes from the pressure applied on the surface of the violin by the bow which converts touch into an electric signal causing the sound and making a melody. Piezoelectric effect and 3D - now that's advanced science.

This Piezoelectric Effect was first discovered in 1880, by physicists Jacques and Pierre Currie who found that in crystals like quartz and tourmaline pressure generated causes an electric charge. And it is not just touch devices but also everyday things like lighters, wristwatches and devices like ultrasound machines, depth finders and other sonar systems that work on piezoelectricity. The automobile industry has been using this in keyless entry for cars, seat belt buzzers and air bag sensors.

Piezoelectricity is being seen as a pollution free solution and a replacement to conventional fuel sources. Labs across the globe are prototyping products based on the piezoelectric effect. Some of these are shoes with piezo cells enabling wearers to generate enough energy to charge gadgets like mobile phones and mini music players while they walk.

Here's how it works

A simple explanation of piezoelectricity is harnessing power from ambient vibrations or mechanical disturbances. This means having infinite sources of power for all wearable devices.

This principal is also being used in innovative ways globally. In Tokyo, the subway stations have been using this technology to generate power from movement of the people using it. A dance club in Netherlands uses it to generate power from the dance floor. One of the latest applications is in a lawn tennis racquet which reduces the transmission of shock vibrations felt by the players in their arms.

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