State-of-the-art hydraulic hose and piping systems employ integral sensor nodes for structural health monitoring in order to avoid catastrophic failures. These systems lend themselves to energy harvesting for powering sensor nodes. The foremost reason is that the power intensity of hydraulic systems is orders of magnitude higher than typical energy harvesting sources considered to date, such as wind turbulence, water flow, or vibrations of civil structures. Hydraulic systems inherently have a high energy intensity associated with the mean pressure and flow. Accompanying the mean pressure is what is termed dynamic pressure ripple caused by the action of pumps and actuators. Pressure ripple is conducive to energy harvesting as it is a deterministic source with an almost periodic time domain behavior. Pressure ripple generally increases in magnitude with the mean pressure of the system, which in turn increases the power that can be harvested. The harvested energy in hydraulic systems could enable self-powered wireless sensor nodes for applications such as energy-autonomous structural health monitoring and prognosis. An energy harvester prototype was designed for generating low-power electricity from dynamic pressure ripples. The prototype employed an axially-poled off-the-shelf piezoelectric stack. A housing isolated the stack from the hydraulic fluid while maintaining mechanical coupling to the system to allow for dynamic pressure induced deflection of the stack. The system exhibits an attractive off-resonance energy harvesting problem since the fundamental resonance of the piezoelectric stack is much higher than the frequency content of ripple. Although the energy harvester is not excited at resonance, the high energy intensity of the ripple results in significant electrical power output. The prototype provided a maximum output of 1.2 mW at 120Ω. With these results, it is clear that the energy harvester provides non-negligible power output suitable for powering sensors and other low power components. This work also presents electromechanical model simulations for predicting the piezoelectric power output in terms of the force transmitted from the pressure ripple as well as experimental characterization of the power output as a function of the force from the ripple.

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