This paper presents a fundamental investigation into scaling effects for the mechanical properties and electrical output power of piezoelectric vibration energy harvesters. The mechanical properties investigated in this paper include resonant frequency of the harvester and its frequency tunability, which is essential for the harvester to operate efficiently under broadband excitations. Electrical output power studied includes cases when the harvester is excited under both constant vibration acceleration and constant vibration amplitude. The energy harvester analysed in this paper is based on a cantilever structure, which is typical of most vibration energy harvesters. Both detailed mathematical derivation and simulation are presented. Furthermore, various piezoelectric materials used in MEMS and non-MEMS harvesters are also considered in the scaling analysis.
This paper reviews work at the University of Southampton and its spin-out company Perpetuum towards the use of vibration energy harvesting in real applications. Perpetuum have successfully demonstrated vibration-powered condition monitoring systems for rail and industrial applications. They have pursued applications were volume is not a particular constraint and therefore sufficient power can be harvested. Harvester reliability and longevity is a key requirement and this can be a challenging task in high shock environments. The University of Southampton has investigated the miniaturization of the technology. MEMS electromagnetic harvesters were found to be unsuitable although miniaturized devices fabricated using bulk components did perform well. Screen printed piezoelectric harvesters were also found to perform well and were ideally suited to a low profile application where device thickness was limited. Screen printing was not only used to deposit the active piezoelectric material but also an inertial mass ink based on tungsten. This enables the device to be printed entirely by screen printing providing a low-cost route to manufacture. Finally, details of a simulation tool that can take real world vibrations and estimate vibration energy harvester output was presented. This was used to simulate linear and nonlinear harvesters and in many applications with a characteristic resonant frequency the linear approach was found to be the optimum. Bistable nonlinear harvesters were found to work better with more random vibration sources.