Piezoelectric Materials Enhance Tennis Players' Training Strategies

Male tennis player preparing to serve

The quality and material of a tennis racket can have a significant effect on a player's game, impacting swing speed, serve speed, ball velocity, and overall mobility and comfort.

Most tennis rackets are built from carbon-based materials. However, recent advances in technology have resulted in the adoption of piezoelectric materials to create “smart” rackets that can track players’ gameplay and provide data about their performance. Piezoelectric materials naturally convert the energy from pressure or tension, such as squeezing a racket handle, into electricity; this benefits tennis players and coaches by empowering the rackets to analyze their gameplay for them.

What Is Piezoelectricity, and What Causes It?

Piezoelectricity uses crystals to convert mechanical energy into electricity. First described in 1880 by Pierre and Jacques Curie, piezoelectricity results from pressing or squeezing certain crystals, such as quartz, together, creating an electric charge. Piezoelectric materials can either conduct the charge or store it as a battery. Piezoelectric materials usually incorporate one face that acts as a positive charge and another that acts as a negative charge; pressing these two faces together creates the electric charge.

Piezoelectric materials see a number of uses in everyday applications. Piezoelectric frequency standards help keep quartz-based watches running, piezoelectric microphones monitor changes in sound in acoustic-electric guitars, and piezoelectric motors create the auto-focus effect in reflex cameras. Even the spark created from flicking a disposable lighter is considered a piezoelectric charge.

Piezoelectric Materials

Piezoelectricity can be created from a wide variety of crystalline materials that lack inversion symmetry. Many of these materials appear naturally, including:

  • Quartz
  • Berlinite
  • Topaz
  • Cane sugar
  • Rochelle salt

Additionally, some ceramic and synthetic compounds can also create piezoelectric charges. Some examples of these include:

  • Barium titanate
  • Lithium niobate
  • Potassium niobate
  • Sodium tungstate

Piezoelectric Materials and Tennis Rackets

In the past few years, “smart” tennis rackets have incorporated piezoelectric materials to provide players with data about their performance. These smart rackets use piezoelectric sensors and microchips to convert the force generated during gameplay into information that it transmits to the cloud for later analysis.

Activated naturally by the force of the player’s grip as well as that of the ball when it hits the racket, these rackets convert this energy into information that can later be reviewed by players and coaches. Smart rackets also stiffen the racket frame and reduce vibration as needed, decreasing wear and tear on both players and their equipment.

Most smart rackets use Bluetooth technology to quickly transmit data, allowing users to easily review information like the power of their shots and the angles at which they strike tennis balls.

Piezoelectricity Helps More Than Just Rackets

Tennis rackets are just one example of how piezoelectricity has changed the way individuals monitor performance and collect data. Incorporating piezoelectric materials also creates easily accessible user interfaces, and the ability to generate electricity on demand benefits your product’s energy efficiency. As this technology continues to improve, we predict that the use of piezoelectricity will continue to grow in applications big and small.

 

Image credit: Maxisport / Shutterstock.com

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