Nowadays, thermal-energy-harvesting is an important research topic for powering wireless sensors. Among numerous thermal-energy-harvesting approaches, some researchers demonstrated novel thermomagnetic-energy harvesters to convert a thermal-energy from an ambient temperature-difference to an electrical-output to power the sensors. However, the harvesters are too bulky to be integrated with the sensors embedded in tiny mechanical-structures for some structuralhealth- monitoring applications. Therefore, miniaturized harvesters are needed. Hence, we demonstrate a miniature thermomagnetic-energy harvester. The harvester consists of CuBe-beams, PZT-piezoelectric-sheet, Gd-soft-magnet, NdFeB-hard-magnet, and mechanical-frame. The piezoelectric-sheet and soft-magnet is bounded at fixed-end and freeend of the beams, respectively. The mechanical-frame assembles the beams and hard-magnet. The length×width×thickness of the harvester is 2.5cm×1.7cm×1.5cm. According to this, our harvester is 20-times smaller than the other harvesters. In the initial-state of the energy-harvesting, the beams’ free-end is near the cold-side. Thus, the soft-magnet is cooled lower than its curie temperature (Tc) and consequently changed from paramagnetic to ferromagnetic. Therefore, a magnetic-attractive force is produced between the soft-magnet and hard-magnet. Consequently, the beams/soft-magnet are down-pulled toward the hard-magnet fixed on the hot-side. The soft-magnet closing to the hot-side is heated higher than its Tc and subsequently changed to paramagnetic. Consequently, the magnetic-force is eliminated thus the beams are rebounded to the initial-state. Hence, when the harvester is under a temperature-difference, the beams’ pulling-down/back process is cyclic. Due to the piezoelectric effect, the piezoelectric-sheet fixed on the beams continuously produces voltage-response. Under the temperature-difference of 29°C, the voltage-response of the harvester is 30.4 mV with an oscillating-frequency of 0.098 Hz.
In this paper, we demonstrate a non-contact magnetic/piezoelectric-based thermal energy harvester utilizing an optimized thermal-convection mechanism to enhance the heat transfer in the energy harvesting/converting process in order to increase the power output. The harvester consists of a CuBe spring, Gadolinium soft magnet, NdFeB hard magnets, frame, and piezoelectric PZT cantilever beams. According to the configuration, the energy harvesting/converting process under a temperature-difference is cyclic. Thus, the piezoelectric beams continuously oscillate and subsequently produce voltage responses due to the piezoelectric effect. The maximum voltage response of the harvester under a temperaturedifference of 25°C is 16.6 mV with a cycling frequency of 0.58 Hz. In addition, we compare the testing result of the harvester utilizing the new thermal-convection mechanism reported in this paper and using previous thermal-convection mechanism reported elsewhere. According to the comparison, the results show the harvester utilizing the new thermal-convection mechanism has a higher cycling frequency resulting in a higher power output than the previous mechanism.