Wireless sensor networks become increasingly important in modern life for structural health monitoring and other related applications. In these applications, due to their overall sensor populations and possible covered measurement areas, the replacement of batteries becomes a difficult and unrealistic task. As a result, energy harvesters to convert environment wasted vibration energy into electricity for powering those sensor nodes become important and many miniaturized device have been realized by using MEMS technology. In order to achieve optimal performance, the energy harvester must be operated at the resonance frequency. However, the vibration frequencies of environmental vibrations are usually much less than that of those miniaturizing energy harvesters and this fact could be a major barrier for energy harvesting performance. In this paper, a new piezoelectric energy scavenging concept is proposed and demonstrated to convert environmental vibrations into electricity. Unlike previous MEMS-based piezoelectric energy harvesters, which suffer from matching between environmental low frequency vibration and the much higher system natural frequency, this work proposes a novel beating design using polymer piezoelectric materials in collaborating with a beating mechanism. That is, by creating impact force via the low frequency vibration motion from the mechanism, it is possible to excite system natural frequency by the low frequency environmental vibrations and it is possible to operate the entire system at the natural frequency. This work contains details in presenting this idea, designing piezoelectric harvester systems with flexible PVDF elements, exploring their vibration characteristics, and energy accumulating strategies by using a capacitor with a full-bridged rectifiers or a boost conversion. By experimental characterization, the overall harvesting efficiency of the proposed design is much greater than that from the design without the beating mechanism. It indicates that the efficiency is significantly improved and the proposed translational design could potentially improve the future design approach for piezoelectric energy harvesters significantly. In summary, this preliminary study shows that it is a feasible scheme for the application of piezoelectric materials in harvesting electricity from environmental vibrations. Although this work is still in its initial phase, the results and conclusions of this work are still invaluable for guiding the development of high efficient piezoelectric harvesters in the future.

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