Research: Harvesting Energy from Movement

One of their unique properties, piezoelectric materials generate a charge when bent or deformed from their original shape.  In this paper, we focused on determining the applicability of using piezoelectrics to harvest vibrational energy from flying vertebrates.  This vibration is generated during the up and down wingbeat motions during flight and is fairly predictable due how birds and bats or different sizes and shapes fly.  Similar to the movement of a pendulum, Dr. Shafer and Robert MacCurdy proposed using different length piezoelectric materials that would oscillate to a animal’s specific flight frequency – generating electricity from their own movement. Using a predictive model for birds that accounts for mass, wing span, aspect ratio and other parameters related to flight, we estimated the maximum power that a species at a given size could produce through energy harvesting. Flying animals are very sensitive to carrying additional weight, thus our energy harvesting estimate has to include to extra energy required to carry the mass of the harvester itself.  Our results suggests that piezoelectric energy harvesting is a viable option for powering radiotransmitters, biotelemetry, or global positioning system devices on flying animals – opening up a new avenue of research for long lived devices.

The pdf version of the entire article can be found here.

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