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29 March 2012 Large-scale self-tuning solid-state kinetic energy harvester
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In recent years there has been a strong emphasis on kinetic (vibration) energy harvesting using smart structure technology. This emphasis has been driven in large part by industry demand for powering sensors and wireless telemetry of sensor data in places into which running power and data cables is difficult or impossible. Common examples are helicopter drive shafts and other rotating equipment. In many instances, available space in these locations is highly limited, resulting in a trend for miniaturization of kinetic energy harvesters. While in some cases size limitations are dominant, in other cases large and even very large harvesters are possible and even desirable since they may produce significantly more power. Examples of large-scale energy harvesting include geomatics, which is the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering spatially referenced information on vast scales. Geomatics relies on suites of various sensors and imaging devices such as meteorological sensors, seismographs, high-resolution cameras, and LiDAR's. These devices may be stationed for prolonged periods of time in remote and poorly accessible areas and are required to operate continuously over prolonged periods of time. In other cases, sensing and imaging equipment may be mounted on land, sea, or airborne platforms and expected to operate for many hours on its own power. Providing power to this equipment constitutes a technological challenge. Other cases may include commercial buildings, unmanned powered gliders and more. Large scale kinetic energy harvesting thus constitutes a paradigm shift in the approach to kinetic energy harvesting as a whole and as often happens it poses its own unique technological challenges. Primarily these challenges fall into two categories: the cost-effective manufacturing of large and very large scale transducing elements based on smart structure technology and the continuous optimization (tuning) of these transducers for various operating conditions. Current research proposes the simultaneous solution of both of the aforementioned challenges via the use of specialized technology for the incorporation of large numbers of piezoelectric transducers into standard printed circuit boards and the continuous control of structural resonance via the application of adaptive compressive stress. Used together, these technologies allow for fully scalable and tunable kinetic energy harvesting. Since the design is modular in nature and a typical size of a single module can easily reach dimensions of 60 by 40 centimeters, there is virtually no upper limit on the size of the harvester other than the limits that derive from its specific applications and placement. The use of compressive forces rather than the commonly used non-structural mass for the tuning of the harvester frequency to the disturbing frequency allows for continuous adaptive tuning while at the same time avoiding the undesirable vibration damping effects of non-structural mass. A proof of concept large-scale harvester capable of manual compressive force tuning was built as part of the current study and preliminary tests were conducted. The tests validate the proposed approach showing power generation on the order of 10 mW at disturbing frequencies between 10 and 100 Hz, with RMS voltages reaching over 20 volts and RMS currents over 2 mA, with proven potential for 50 mW with over 100 VAC and 10 mA for a transducing panel 20 by 10 cm. The results also validate the tuning via compressive force approach, showing strong dependence of energy harvesting efficiency on the compressive force applied to the transducing panel.
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Baruch Pletner, Lukas Swan, Nicholas Wettels, and Alain Joseph "Large-scale self-tuning solid-state kinetic energy harvester", Proc. SPIE 8343, Industrial and Commercial Applications of Smart Structures Technologies 2012, 834309 (29 March 2012);

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