Harvest Time

Thursday 13th November 2014

A new technique for generating electrical energy from vibrations has been discovered, with a technique that harvests energy from mechanical vibrations by converting them into electricity - it is small but could have big implications for medical implants.

Research scientists at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have been studying ways to harvest energy in, for example, wireless self-powered sensors and medical implants, where they could ultimately replace batteries. Also the research could also see future use in many application areas such as wearable electronics.

The VTT scientists have now successfully generated energy by utilizing the charging phenomenon that occurs naturally between two bodies with different work functions. Work function is the amount of energy needed to remove an electron from a solid and it determines, for example, the well-known photoelectric effect.

When two conducting bodies with different work functions are connected to each other electrically, they accumulate opposite charges. The movement of these bodies with respect to each other generates energy because of the attractive electrostatic force between the opposite charges. In VTT’s experiment the energy generated by this motion was converted into useful electrical power by connecting the bodies to an external circuit. This new energy conversion technique also works with semiconductors.

In many applications, such as pacemakers, electricity is typically provided by batteries. Research into small energy harvesters that turn mechanical vibration into electricity has focused on piezoelectric and electrostatic devices. Unlike these devices VTT’s technique does not require an integrated battery, electrets or piezo materials.

VTT estimates that the new electricity generation technology could be introduced on an industrial scale within three to six years.

Energy harvesters and new sensing solutions are among the projected megatrends of the near future. Energy harvesters can replace batteries and other energy sources in applications where maintenance is difficult or impossible.

Hence “Good Vibrations” could be powering your devices, internally or otherwise in the future.

Categories: General, Renewable, Reviews, Technology

Thursday 13th November 2014

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