Friday, 25 March 2022 12:00


On-line via MS Teams Click here to join the meeting

Live event – venue MSG-024/25 (MSSI Building), Bernal Institute.

Pb-FREE: The Hunt for Super-Piezoelectric Organic Crystal Assemblies


Billions of piezoelectric sensors are produced every year, improving the efficiency of many current and emerging technologies. By interconverting electrical and mechanical energy they enable medical device, infrastructure, automotive and aerospace industries, but with a huge environmental cost. The majority of piezoelectric sensors contain Lead Zirconium Titanate (PZT), the fabrication of which requires toxic lead oxide. Prominent lead-free alternatives are heavily processed, and rely on expensive, non-renewable materials such as Niobium.

Biological materials such as amino acids and peptides have emerged as exciting new piezoelectrics. Biomolecular-crystal assemblies can be grown at room temperature with no by-products, and do not require an external electric field to induce piezoelectricity, unlike PZT and other piezoceramics. Currently no research is focused on developing these crystals as reliable, solid-state sensors to integrate into conventional electronic devices, due to their high-water solubility, uncontrolled growth, variable piezoelectric response, and difficulty in making electrical contact.

In this talk Dr Guerin will discuss her ERC-funded Pb-FREE project, which will take on the ground-breaking challenge of developing biomolecular crystals as organic, low-cost, high-performance sensors, to out-perform and phase-out inorganic device components with dramatically reduced environmental impact. The project will rapidly accelerate the design, growth, and engineering of these novel piezoelectric materials using a three-pronged approach.


Dr Sarah Guerin is the PI of the newly established Actuate Lab in the Department of Physics and Bernal Institute in the University of Limerick. She currently works on both in-silico and ex-silico engineering of biomolecular crystals, primarily for application areas in eco-friendly sensing and pharmaceuticals. Dr Guerin has been successful in securing €2M of funding from national and international sources for the development of organic piezoelectric device components. She currently works with a large number of international research groups as a world-leader in computationally predicting the electromechanical properties of novel molecular crystals. She has been awarded the British Association of Crystal Growth Young Scientist of the Year Award and the IEEE Dilis Das Gupta Memorial Award.

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