In many scenarios where vibration energy harvesting can be utilized — particularly those involving bio-motions or environmental disturbances — energy sources are broadband and non-stationary. On the other hand, design procedures have been predominantly developed for harmonic or white noise excitation, specifically for single degree of freedom approximations of the transducer. In this paper, a general approach for design optimization of cantilevered, piezoelectric energy harvesters in the presence of band-limited, white-noise excitation is outlined. For this study, human and vehicular motions are considered; these complex waveforms are distilled into a small set of dominant features with regard to their impact on the power output of the device. Criteria based on modal participation factors, including pre-filtering of the disturbance, are used in guiding the reduction of the input and plant degrees of freedom in order to make the design optimization problem tractable. This process determines the error in assuming a low-order model for the transducer in the presence of broadband noise that may excite multiple modes of vibration. Furthermore, this study considers the quantitative impact of charge cancellation in higher modes and the benefits of inserting multiple electrodes along the length. To illustrate these methods, energy harvesters are designed for acceleration data collected from walking and car idling. It is shown that a simple method that is a generalization of naïve approaches that assume harmonic or white noise excitation and a single degree of freedom can determine which simplifications are appropriate and the inaccuracies that can be expected from them.

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