One of the strengths inherent in piezoelectric materials lies in their ability to effectively transform mechanical energy into electrical energy. Often, these materials find use in sensors or actuators used for somewhat high-level applications, such as medical ultrasonic probes, sonars or accelerometers. As such, most average consumers find only indirect benefit from these materials and their ability to perform other tasks.
In exploring our topic, we took advantage of the permanence of the piezoelectric effect and looked for applications that would bring these benefits to the average consumer. More and more, technologies are being developed or researched specifically with the idea of providing direct benefit to consumers, rather than serving industries or governments that only tangentially affect consumers.
Fig.1 (a) Work principle and (b) performance of piezoelectric materials for tooth whitening
How? Fig.1 shows the working principle and performance of piezoelectric materials for tooth whitening. As we know, the most common clinic tooth whitening agent is based on hydrogen peroxide, which can release unstable, reactive oxygen species during decomposition into water. Then, the reactive oxygen species will attack organic pigment molecules on the surface of teeth, and degrade staining compounds. Alternatively, our idea is to use the mechanical energy during daily brushing to induce polarization change, and in turn produce such reactive oxygen species (Fig. 1a).
We also invite you to read the Nature Communications paper (11:1328, 2020) to find out how exactly piezoelectric materials can actually transduce elbow grease into cultural capital.