Progress in lead-free piezoelectric nanofiller materials and related composite nanogenerator devices
Current piezoelectric device systems need a significant reduction in size and weight so that electronic modules of increasing capacity and functionality can be incorporated into a great range of applications, particularly in energy device platforms. The key question for most applications is whether they can compete in the race of down-scaling and an easy integration with highly adaptable properties into various system technologies such as nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS). Piezoelectric NEMS have potential to offer access to a parameter space for sensing, actuating, and powering, which is inflential and intriguing. Fortunately, recent advances in modelling, synthesis, and characterization techniques are spurring unprecedented developments in a new field of piezoelectric nano-materials and devices. While the need for looking more closely at the piezoelectric nano-materials is driven by the relentless drive of miniaturization, there is an additional motivation: the piezoelectric materials, which are showing the largest electromechanical responses, are currently toxic lead (Pb)-based perovskite materials (such as the ubiquitous Pb(Zr,Ti)O3, PZT). This is important, as there is strong legislative and moral push to remove toxic lead compounds from commercial products. By far, the lack of viable alternatives has led to continuing exemptions to allow their temporary use in piezoelectric applications. However, the present exemption will expire soon, and the concurrent improvement of lead-free piezoelectric materials has led to the possibility that no new exemption will be granted. In this paper, the universal approaches and recent progresses in the field of lead-free piezoelectric nano-materials, initially focusing on hybrid composite materials as well as individual nanoparticles, and related energy harvesting devices are systematically elaborated. The paper begins with a short introduction to the properties of interest in various piezoelectric nanomaterials and a brief description of the current state-of-the-art for lead-free piezoelectric nanostructured materials. We then describe several key methodologies for the synthesis of nanostructure materials including nanoparticles, followed by the discussion on the critical current and emerging applications in detail.