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Harvesting Mechanical Energy to Produce Electricity

Posted April 14, 2011 1:42 PM by Sharkles

Researchers at Siemens have developed a machine that efficiently converts mechanical energy into electricity. The machine, known as the Energy Harvester, is a "tiny power plant" that is equipped with sensors whose power supply can record and wirelessly transmit information.

A spring-mass system allows the Energy Harvester to convert movements with a range of frequencies and amplitudes into electricity with a power of "several milliwatts." To do this, the machine relies on stacks of piezoelectric materials that expand when electric voltage is applied. When these materials are subjected to mechanical strain, electricity is produced.

The research team continues to work on optimizing the Energy Harvester's performance in hopes of ultimately boosting the current yield, while reducing assembly costs.

Source: Energy Harvesting Journal

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#1

Re: Harvesting Mechanical Energy to Produce Electricity

04/14/2011 2:17 PM

Except for the references to electricty, this sounds like a self-winding wristwatch.

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: Harvesting Mechanical Energy to Produce Electricity

04/15/2011 1:42 AM

Doorman: Excellent analogy; "self-winding wristwatch".

Tornado: Don't knock it. I think Siemens is on to a potentially fruitful (as in Euros) area of research. Siemens is well committed to semiconductor technology. So putting it all into a tiny microchip is feasible for them; the only size limits being the energy storage component and the antenna.

We're talking a wealth of potential product applications. For starters how about a transducer you attach to a piece of machinery. It senses conditions like temperature and vibrations, processes the data and stores it. During this period the natural vibrations of the machine are absorbed by a piezoelectric which puts out an AC signal. Most of the energy of that signal is rectified and stored in a tiny storage battery or capacitor. A small amount is processed into data and stored in memory. Periodically the energy storage is sufficient to send a wireless digital signal burst to a remote receiver. No batteries, solar cells, thermoelectrics or any power source are needed except the natural vibrations in the physical environment. In most industrial and commercial environments this is no problem. Also the case in many but not all natural environments.

Ed Weldon

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#4
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Re: Harvesting Mechanical Energy to Produce Electricity

04/15/2011 2:17 AM

The title made it sound more like power/energy amounts of electricity rather than signal/info amounts. (Visions of speed bumps again?) And maybe "vibrational energy" would have been a better description than "mechanical energy."

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#2

Re: Harvesting Mechanical Energy to Produce Electricity

04/14/2011 11:13 PM

In the first line, the word "efficiently" should probably be translated as "inefficiently."

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#5

Re: Harvesting Mechanical Energy to Produce Electricity

04/15/2011 9:04 AM

Makes one wonder just how much energy could be captured from the suspension systems of moving vehicles that is currently wasted. Perhaps enough from my motorcycle suspension to power my GPS without the extra load on the regular electrical system?

Or enough from an EV suspension to prolong the duration of the charge of the main batteries?

Interesting!

Hooker

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