Ricoh Develops Power-Generating Rubber Material, Looks Like ‘Fruit Rollup’

Is that a Fruit Rollup in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Although it looks like the tasty treat that I remember fondly from my childhood, Ricoh truly has an innovative new rubber material on display which can turn pressure and vibrations into electricity.

OK, now I know what you’re thinking — rubber, pressure, vibrations — there’s got to be some pretty interesting uses for this technology, right? We won’t delve into that aspect, as Ricoh has more respectable uses for this technology in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. According to Ricoh, its Power Generating Rubber material provides the best of both worlds by combining the “relatively high electricity” output of traditional piezoelectric ceramics with grater flexibility than piezoelectric polymers.

ricoh rubber
(Source: Nikkei Technology)

We know what this Energy Generating Rubber can do, but for now, Ricoh isn’t saying exactly how it goes about producing power. The company is keeping those aspects of the product pretty close to the vest at this time, but hopefully it will open the floodgates at a later date so we can a better look at what makes this promising technology tick. In the mean time, it’s partnered with the Tokyo University of Science to further develop and market the technology.

Ricoh see a huge potential in replacing existing piezoelectric ceramics, which are often use as sensors in utility equipment. There are downsides to using fragile ceramic material including increased weight and the use of poisonous lead. Ricoh counters that its Energy Generating Rubber’s inherent flexibility makes it durable and easy enough to produce to be “installed in various locations and large spaces.”

The possibilities are endless in the buildup to the IoT era. This material could likely be incorporated into clothing, shoes, road surfaces; you name it. Energy harvesting is essential to powering our sensor-driven future and Ricoh looks to have found a way to bounce right to the front of the line with its rubber breakthrough.