This chapter highlights some of the mechanical potential and kinetic energyharvesting technologies that have infiltrated or are on the verge of reaching the commercial marketplace, or are currently under development. Energy harvesters are enabling technologies that are driving a number of diverse applications. These include the direct replacement of batteries (as supplemental power sources), self-powered devices, and for vibration damping to dissipate the potentially damaging energy from a structure or system, in the process of which they may also serve as power sources. In certain applications, energy-harvesting devices may serve as power sources as well as self-powered event-detection sensors with integrated logic circuitry.
As discussed in previous chapters, several transduction methods are
available to convert mechanical kinetic and potential energy into electrical energy. There is a long history of such energy-harvesting systems. Dynamos, which convert mechanical energy into electrical energy via electromagnetic transduction, are popular with bicyclists and have been around since the late nineteenth century, and are still in use today. In fact, one of the contemporary commercial success stories is the regenerative braking system, which is based on the same energy-harvesting principle. Push-button piezoelectric igniters generating a few thousand volts have been used as ignition sources in gas appliances. These piezoelectric ignition systems are small, simple, long lasting, and require little maintenance.
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