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Vibration energy harvesting across a wider spectrum

22 March 2012

An innovative project is underway to investigate how energy can be harvested from a wide range of frequencies. Energy can be harvested from unwanted vibrations found in most industrial processes and our environment, but currently energy is mainly harvested from the resonant area of the frequency spectrum. This project aims to use new materials to harvest energy from a much wider range of frequencies, therefore capturing more energy.

The bistable composite used in this project is a carbon fibre laminate that 'snaps' between two different shape configurations when weight is applied

The three year project ('Optimisation of Broadband Energy Harvesters Using Bistable Composites' - funded by the EPSRC) began in January 2012, and is led by the University of Bath. Bath's researchers are working with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the University of Bristol, and energy harvesting device specialist, Perpetuum.

Bistable composites, as their name suggests, are materials that can be stable in two different configurations depending on where a force is applied. The bistable composite used in this project is a carbon fibre laminate that 'snaps' between two different shape configurations when weight is applied.

These materials can be used to harvest energy that would otherwise be wasted, and use it to power low energy electronics at no cost. This works by converting the mechanical energy from environmental vibrations (such as cars driving along a road, or footsteps across a station concourse, or a rattling air conditioning unit) into useable electrical energy.

NPL's measurement expertise will be vital to this project as it involves making very complex measurements of the bistable composites' chaotic response to environmental vibrations.

The project partners aim to design and build experimental energy harvesting devices that could be used in real world applications across a range of industries such as Oil & Gas, Transport, and Power Generation.


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