Smart ‘energy harvesting’ technology with autonomous resonance-tuning leads to stable power supply for small electronic devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) requires the installation free of time and space, therefore, needs independent power sources that are not restricted by batteries or power lines.

Energy harvesting technology harvests wasted energy such as vibration, heat, light, and electromagnetic waves from everyday settings, such as automobiles, buildings, and home appliances, and converts it into electrical energy.

Energy harvesters can generate sufficient electricity to run small electronic devices by harvesting ambient energy sources without an external power supply.

The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has announced that Dr Hyun-Cheol Song’s research team at the Electronic Materials Research Center developed an autonomous resonance tuning (ART) piezoelectric energy harvester that autonomously adjusts its resonance according to the surrounding environment.

The developed energy harvester can tune its own resonance over a broad bandwidth of more than 30 Hz, and convert the absorbed vibration energy into electrical energy.

The energy harvesting process that converts vibration into electrical energy inevitably causes a mechanical energy loss, which leads to low energy conversion efficiency.

This problem can be solved by using the resonance phenomenon in which the vibration amplifies when the natural frequency of an object and the frequency of the vibration match.

However, while the natural frequency of the energy harvester is fixed, the various vibrations we experience in our everyday settings have different ranges of frequency.

For this reason, the natural frequency of the harvester must be adjusted to the usage environment every time in order to induce resonance, making it difficult to put into practical use.

See also: Energy generated from vibrations amplified in boost for wearable devices

energy harvester

Accordingly, the KIST research team developed a specially designed energy harvester that can tune itself to the surrounding frequency without a separate electrical device.

When the energy harvester senses the vibration of the surroundings, an adaptive clamping system (tuning system) attached to the harvester modulates its frequency to the same frequency as the external vibration, thus enabling resonance.

As a result, it was possible to quickly achieve resonant frequency tuning within two seconds, continuously generating electricity in a broad bandwidth of more than 30Hz.

For the real-world validation of the ART function, this energy harvester equipped with a tuning system was mounted on a driving vehicle.

Unlike piezoelectric energy harvesters that have been introduced in preceding studies, it successfully drove a wireless positioning device without a battery in an environment where the vibration frequency continuously changed.

Song, who led the study, said: “This result suggests that energy harvesters using vibrations can be applied to our real life soon.

“It is expected to be applicable as an independent power source for wireless sensors, including the IOT, in the future.”

Image 1: Schematics for energy harvester structure and adaptive clamping system (above).

Image 2: Diagrams showing the potential for practical use of an ART energy harvester that successfully drives a positioning device by utilising the vibration energy of an automobile engine.

© Korea Institute of Science and Technology.