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Piezoelectric materials are about as close to magic as you can get. They turn physical pressure into electricity and can even turn electricity into physical pressure – an amazing sort of bidirectional converter for mechanical and electrical energies. Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that you can easily ‘grow’ your own piezoelectric crystals overnight using just a couple of common ingredients – awesome.

Ever since I made my first contact microphone, I’ve been amazed by piezos and their unique abilities. I was more than psyched to learn I could make my own piezoelectric crystals after finding recipes online. Now I just need to figure out how I’ll put these little guys to good use … feel free to leave any ideas/suggestions in the comments below!

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Collin Cunningham

Born, drew a lot, made video, made music on 4-track, then computer, more songwriting, met future wife, went to art school for video major, made websites, toured in a band, worked as web media tech, discovered electronics, taught myself electronics, blogged about DIY electronics, made web videos about electronics and made music for them … and I still do!


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Comments

  1. Could you combine it with a Gas or liquid that is excited by the electricity generated by sound. The light and energy would be faint but very cool in a dark place. Tubes that light up when you talk to them. Or loud music.

  2. Anonymous says:

    YAY!!!!

    Crystals have always fascinated me, and their properties even more so. i have never been able to locate the grocery store cream of tartar, as this is one of those crucial ingredients in many a kitchen chemistry experiments. but alas, youve renewed my hope that it is still in the aisles.

    As for the crystals themselves, i imagine they are water soluble, is this correct? if im not mistaken, the crystals are sliced into wafers and sandwiched and adhered between two contacts that provide a certain tensile strength to this fragile slice, but also allow it to vibrate the surface. The question of the solubilty comes from the concern of a small scale accesible way of achieving this, but every method i can think of would involve blade cooling via a water soluble coolant/abrasive slurry. There are mini tile saws, that with a proper grip and steadying jig ( and plenty of material to try/test cut rate/pressure)could suffice. i suppose oil could work,.. to the drawing board…well, truly, to the backburner, but if you are currently undergoing this process of homemade wafer making, id love to see the process…

    1. Big says:

      I see cream of tartar all the time just be sure to check the baking aisle with all the spices

      1. Anonymous says:

        The issue i have with finding it is usually a matter of luck, as i endeavor to grow various crystals or chemical concoctions. i go to my local grocery stores, and have run into the space where it once was, but is not, and upon my returning, still has not been replenished. im sure if i was willing to give myself the leeway to venture further unitl i find it, it probably would not be much longer than going to one more store, but i should note, that in a day i have continuosly gone store to store, to the tune of six or seven, only to have clerks tilt their head at me when i ask. i shouldn’t be disheartened by this, but as i am more aware of its uses as a chemical agent, im not sure if as a food ingredient, perhaps the recipes are just harder to come by, and it becomes one of those forgotten “spices”, so the stores dont want to have an item that just continually expires from order to order.

        I know, perhaps i over explained, but the point is, i now am more inclined to look for it in the futher reaches beyond my immediate neighborhood…thnx…

        ah, but the question of solubility still stands…perhaps i will make it a point to test for myself in the coming week , as this is a project from a couple years ago with varied results, that then got put on the backburner, mainly from the diffuculty in sourcing ingredients locally, but am reinvigorated towards it…

    2. Austin says:

      No, they are not soluble in water, he poured water out of the container that the crystals formed in, if they were soluble they never would have formed, the water only acted as a medium for the reaction to take place in.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hey, that’s awesome. I’m thinking that you should be able to grow larger and flawless crystals by letting it cool even slowly (like a degree a day). I found a great resource on growing crystals at this page http://www.waynesthisandthat.com/crystals.htm#single%20crystals

  4. Anonymous says:

    I love all Collin’s videos, (still waiting on if Jameco will sell a compedium..?). But as a geek with a lot of chemistry in his training this is my favorite so far. It was delightful! You might try difference “faces” of your crystal in your panavise™, as i think most of the piezoelectric effect is along one crystal axis, (which might not be an obvious one). Thank you Collin! please do more; sensors, and possibly bio-sensors for (my selfish) preference.

    1. Anonymous says:

      agree, agree, agree, and agree (not as selfish as you might think)…

  5. Dave Brunker says:

    I remember reading in H. P. Friedrichs’ “The Voice of the Crystal” that piezo crystals are kind of like… polarized in one direction. The biggest problem with crystal radios is finding the headphones or ear piece. Piezo crystal ear phones used to be found in ever electronics store but now they’ve all but vanished. The author suggested taking apart electronic spark, cigarette lighters and using the peizo crystals in those. Don’t know where my copy of the book went but you can find his website here: http://www.hpfriedrichs.com/bks-votc-gallery.htm

  6. maexon says:

    I just wonder what happens if you apply voltage to such big cristal…

    1. You should be able to see that the crystal is putting some stress onto its surroundings, like say it might bulge a little bit along its central axis.  However, you shouldn’t expect a major bang, or anything with the word major in front, because of the internal chemical structure of the crystal.

  7. Why my homemade Piezo Crystals didn’t work? It didn’t turn to clear oily looking solution? do i use all the baking Soda or should I stop when the liquid transforms to a clear liquid? Please help, thank you

    1. Dr A says:

      Stop when the liquid turns clear.

  8. This is great! I tried it an managed to record sound with it really easily. http://soundcloud.com/leafcutterjohn/first-recording-using-rochelle and I did a write up here: http://leafcutterjohn.com/?p=1518

    Thanks Collin!

  9. George Tarrant says:

    Make a crystal transformer with them.

  10. Anonymous says:

    That is great!

    amt

  11. Dude!!! I’m an engineering student and between school and work I don’t find that much time to research about things I wanna do on my own.  So, I’ve been stock for about the same time this video has been out here on a project that required piezoelectric crystals.  You’re awesome!!!! 

    Meseta, you’re my hero!!!!  That’s a cool link.

  12. gn concierge says:

    I love watching that video, post more. Places To See In Sydney

  13. I like this video. This is the nicest video I ever browsed today!

  14. sjboard44 says:

    How would you add the encasement so that it could generate sound?

  15. brad says:

    help instead of clear. the solution turned a honey yellow and is thick and will not filter easy. what happened. it fizzed and bubbled then stopped and is clearer then when i started and i stirred constantly.

  16. women entrepreneurs

    The video was absolutely surprising, well shown.

  17. surprising I was wandering if ai colud make a vibrator ultrasonic end with 3 Inch diameter.

  18. CB says:

    Ive been making these piezo crystals to make a structure (such as a tile) that generates energy from the steps. Does anyone know how can I work with the crystals so i can make a piezo sheet out of them? or how to connect the crystals to make this structure? thanks!!

    1. Xavier says:

      Great to hear tht…
      can I know how much power does each tile generates and how much quantity of crystal do u have to use in one tile to harness that much power…???
      PS: have to include the details in a ‘project proposal’ at the college, would really appreciate a timely reply… :-D

  19. [...] crystals As a first step we started googling the principles of piezoelectricity and found this really good Collin’s video (Make Magazine). It has easy and very well described steps to make [...]

  20. [...] found a good recipe of how to make a piezoelectric:  Collin’s video (Make Magazine). -Cream of Tartar (aprox. 6 to 9 dls for 3.5oz in NYC) -Soda Ash (aprox. 3 1lb in [...]

  21. trytobegood says:

    I tried to grow my own but at this particular point (2 days after the boiling stuff happened) they’re just tiny little pieces that have semi-hardened together into a bigger piece. I brought these pieces to school and tried a multimeter on them but they 1) crumbled back into tiny pieces, but MORE importantly, they didn’t register anything on the multimeter. Is it because they aren’t really conductive until they’ve truly formed?

  22. Mabruk Mohamed M says:

    Can any body give me the substitute for potassium bitartrate ?

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