The gateway to Europe's
integrated metrology community.


Patent granted for piezoelectric measurement tool developed during EMPIR project

Microphoto in section of a sample of Silicon nanowires array fabricated by polystyrene nanosphere lithography and Metal Assisted Chemical Etching (MACE). With permission of the authors: E. Cara, L. Boarino, INRiM Nanofacility

The new tool will improve quality control for nanomaterials used in renewable energy generation

The project

As renewable energy sources become more prevalent, novel designs and materials are being developed to improve efficiency and harvest energy from new sources. Nanowires (NW) are nano-scale structured materials in the form of long and slender wires, which have found use across photovoltaic cells, thermoelectricity and electromechanical energy nanogenerators.

NW solar cells in particular have the potential to increase their efficiency to the 46.7 % ultimate limit using nanophotonic engineering. However, these novel materials require robust testing methods for characterisation and quality control. There has been a lack of metrology for large area NW arrays (on the scale of cm2 to m2) and quantitative links between the performance of individual NWs and the device they are a part of is lacking.

EMPIR project ‘High throughput metrology for nanowire energy harvesting devices’ (19ENG05, NanoWires) has addressed these issues through the development of traceable measurement methods and characterisation for energy harvesting devices using NWs. These methods are based on atomic force microscopy (AFM) and microelectromechanical system (MEMS) based scanning probe microscopy (MEMS-SPM), fast areal thermal imaging and scanning microwave microscopy, and can be used to characterise NW solar cells, electromechanical energy harvesters and thermoelectrical systems.

New patent

During the project, a new traceable piezoelectric measurement tool was designed and prototyped by project partner Electrosciences Ltd. The tool uses two aligned probes to apply a cycle of known mechanical forces to a sample, measuring the resulting piezoelectric charge.

From this charge, the material’s piezoelectric coefficient (denoted as d33) can then be calculated. The tool was used during the project to measure d33 for zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires – presented in the paper ‘Area-Selective Growth of Zinc Oxide Nanowire Arrays for Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting’ – and, following the grant of a patent, is now commercially available as the ‘ESPY33’.

The tool allows NW to be characterised but can also be used to measure other polymer, ceramic and single crystal materials such as discs, films and wafers, and so has further applications across areas like aerospace, smart sensors, oceanography and medicine.

Project coordinator Uwe Brand (PTB) has said about the project:

“This patented microshaker will help to accelerate the reliable development of innovative nanostructured materials. Industrial partners, including manufacturers and suppliers of piezoelectric energy generators, are encouraged to adopt and utilise the developed tool.”

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

Want to hear more about EURAMET?

Sign up for EURAMET newsletters and other information

Follow us on LinkedIn and X/Twitter


  • EMPIR,
  • Energy,
  • EMN Clean Energy,
  • TC-EM,

Purple concert lights

Temporal light modulations videos available

Supporting a complete transition to LED lighting across Europe more

Blue sparks of light

EMPIR project develops portable single photon sources along with new quantum measurement paradigm

Developing quantum computers, communications and sensors requires the ability to generate, manipulate, and measure single photons more

Courtesy of BIPM

BIPM-WMO report recommends integrating metrology into the practice of climate and ocean observation

Metrology for climate action workshop report aligns closely with strategic research agenda of the EMN for Climate and Ocean Observation more

Electrical grid power station

EMPIR project on instrument transformers for power quality measurements brings benefits

Characterising Instrument transformers to develop new standards for more reliable power quality measurements more

World Metrology Day spotlight: Radiation protection makes a difference in sustainability

Sometimes it depends on the perspective. That's why people don't automatically think of radiation protection when it comes to sustainability – but per... more