Every form of fossil energy that we extract from the earth, and radioactive materials for nuclear power to fuel our centralized power plants must be converted into high frequency and high voltage AC before it can be transmitted in our power grids. To do this we produce steam and turn mighty generators. Sometimes, we use wind and water to turn smaller generators on a greatly reduced scale, but the principle in all these devices is the same. Today, because of promising materials science we do not have to turn generators to produce alternating current, and this is not the way AC is produced by nature.
The only form of energy that has ever proven so practical as to power the entire world for the last one hundred plus years is alternating current. Alternating current, now called AC was conceived of in a vision of a rotating magnetic field by Nikola Tesla in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Tesla later devised our system of electrical distribution and invented the induction motor in 1888 that is used in our appliances today. Both were a fulfillment of his vision of alternating current. Yet, despite his efforts, he is not well known today by people in the world.
The universe is driven by an irreducible vibration some call the zero point, and our universe is filled with high frequency electromagnetic waves. Piezoelectricity in crystals amounts to an irreducible vibration also, when nature gets its magnetic grip on crystals.
The presence of piezoelectricity was confirmed by the Curies after being deduced from fundamental thermodynamic principles in 1881. The Curries then confirmed a converse effect and obtained proof of complete reversibility of electro-eleasto-mechanical deformations in piezoelectric crystals.
In layman’s terms, piezoelectricity is the production of a voltage on the faces of these crystals due to tiny vibrations that cannot be observed visually. Nevertheless they are utilized today in the production of high voltage and high frequency alternating current but only in certain special applications.
During World War I, piezoelectric devices and materials were developed in the United States and using these materials, we developed sonar for the war effort. Companies kept the information under wraps in hopes of securing monetary gains from patents. Today, thin slices of manmade piezoelectric crystals form the basis of piezoelectric motors and very precise control mechanisms for laser mirror alignment among many applications, but we do not use them to power our nation’s electric grids.
Nature uses piezoelectric crystals to produce almost unlimited energy in the universe in the form of high frequency electromagnetic waves, but not with slices of the crystals as we do, but rather spherical crystals.
With subtle and sometimes mysterious methods, nature turns globs of silica glass with just a few impurities slowly into crystals in much the same way that the semiconductor industry makes piezoelectric crystals today. These mighty and subtle forces of nature join magnets to globs of glass subjecting them to a strong electric field turning them into crystals. Then these magnets squeeze the newly formed crystals and in doing so apply a changing magnetic field to them at the same time storing a charge on the crystal faces.
So, the crystals are electrically charged from the magnetic squeezing and then discharge electricity in the form of an electromagnetic pulse that has a mighty magnetic force upon the crystal. Each time the crystal charges or discharges, the fields of the moving magnets are interacting, and the magnetic field within the crystal is changing strength.
The electromagnetic waves produced by the tiny deformation of these crystals is of very high frequency or "short" and fit the confinement of the spherical crystal so that they are reinforced by the principle of resonance. Usually, the displacement of the crystal is measured in just a few nanometers so the electromagnetic waves produced are also just a few nanomenters in wavelength. Recognizing this it should be apparent that making use of very tiny crystals for producing AC might be impractical unless some modifications are made.
Practical application of this vibration would need to involve a much lower frequency, a larger displacement, and a bigger confinement. So, we would need stronger magnetic fields. To achieve much stronger fields, we would employ both permanent magnets and ferromagnets. Ferromagnets produce a strong and changing magnetic field in the presence of a weaker changing one.
Remember that the presence of a conductor in a magnetic field is not enough to produce AC. We need the vibration or oscillation of the crystal to produce an interaction between the magnetic fields. We must have a changing magnetic field.
A larger confinement would reduce the frequency of the alternating current produced because the emitted wave would then be governed by the geometry of the dielectric shell of the larger confinement, and the larger resonant chamber. So, the shell would then discharge at a much lower frequency. The principles are the same as nature’s piezoelectric crystals but the size of a practical device needs to be larger.
To understand the workings of piezoelectric crystals one needs to recognize that the crystals are a regular arrangement of atoms that each have their own magnetic fields that are interacting and producing electromagnetic waves as the crystal changes shape. The crystal is mostly empty space. So our crystal is made of faces and spaces. The waves produced by electrons orbiting the individual atoms each have a magnetic force so that these waves help to produce a displacement within the crystal and alternating current. The atoms making up the crystal are likewise charging and discharging just like the crystal. This is what amounts to the interaction of changing magnetic fields and a conductor or "Resistance" within the fields.
Just as quantum dots are nonlinear optical devices, piezoelectric crystals produce electricity in a nonlinear fashion. They amount to nature’s example of electronic amplifiers.
This is the mechanism that nature is using to produce alternating current, but we do not use this principle for powering the grid. Instead, we use up valuable natural resources and contribute to many environmental problems by burning fossil fuels.
If we had an incentive, we would be using piezoelectricity for power generation now, and I think that the potential for serious Climate Change should be reason enough to adopt nature’s design.
We have been fossil fools long enough. With the right person in charge, we could avoid the catastrophe that is upon us now, but we will surely need such leadership and everyone’s cooperation. Never have we had such disagreement between our leaders as to the course of the nation.
The good news is that all our leaders are now beginning to agree on a single overarching issue. To address Climate Change, we must get off oil, or wreck any hope securing the future for ourselves or our children. So, hope that our leaders will soon be honest enough to tell us that we are on the wrong highway and ask for directions.
Ralph Randolph Sawyer