Wafer-scale heterostructured piezoelectric bio-organic thin films

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Science  16 Jul 2021:
Vol. 373, Issue 6552, pp. 337-342
DOI: 10.1126/science.abf2155

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Piezoelectric bioorganic thin films

Piezoelectric materials enable a reversible conversion between mechanical pressure and electric charge and are useful for sensors, actuators, and high-precision motors. Yang et al. developed a method for making high-quality crystalline thin films of piezoelectric γ-glycine crystals that are grown and refined between layers of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) (see the Perspective by Berger). The PVA layers are essential to promoting the crystallization of the preferred crystal phase with the polar axis oriented perpendicular to the film plan because of hydrogen bonding at the PVA-glycine interface. The thin films show a macroscopic piezoelectric response and high stability in aqueous environments. The films are water soluble and, when suitably packaged, could be implanted into a biodegradable energy-harvesting device.

Science, abf2155, this issue p. 337; see also abj0424, p. 278


Piezoelectric biomaterials are intrinsically suitable for coupling mechanical and electrical energy in biological systems to achieve in vivo real-time sensing, actuation, and electricity generation. However, the inability to synthesize and align the piezoelectric phase at a large scale remains a roadblock toward practical applications. We present a wafer-scale approach to creating piezoelectric biomaterial thin films based on γ-glycine crystals. The thin film has a sandwich structure, where a crystalline glycine layer self-assembles and automatically aligns between two polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) thin films. The heterostructured glycine-PVA films exhibit piezoelectric coefficients of 5.3 picocoulombs per newton or 157.5 × 10−3 volt meters per newton and nearly an order of magnitude enhancement of the mechanical flexibility compared with pure glycine crystals. With its natural compatibility and degradability in physiological environments, glycine-PVA films may enable the development of transient implantable electromechanical devices.

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