Emergence of increasingly smaller electromechanical systems with submilli-Watt power consumption led to the development of scalable micropower generators (MPGs) that harness ambient energy to provide electrical power on a very small scale. A flow MPG is one particular type which converts the momentum of an incident flow into electrical output. Traditionally, flow energy is harnessed using rotary-type generators whose performance has been shown to drop as their size decreases. To overcome this issue, oscillating flow MPGs were proposed. Unlike rotary-type generators which rely upon a constant aerodynamic force to produce a deflection or rotation, oscillating flow MPGs take advantage of cross-flow instabilities to provide a periodic forcing which can be used to transform the momentum of the moving fluid into mechanical motion. The mechanical motion is then transformed into electricity using an electromechanical transduction element. The purpose of this review article is to summarize important research carried out during the past decade on flow micropower generation using cross-flow instabilities. The summarized research is categorized according to the different instabilities used to excite mechanical motion: galloping, flutter, vortex shedding, and wake-galloping. Under each category, the fundamental mechanism responsible for the instability is explained, and the basic mathematical equations governing the motion of the generator are presented. The main design parameters affecting the performance of the generator are identified, and the pros and cons of each method are highlighted. Possible directions of future research which could help to improve the efficacy of flow MPGs are also discussed.

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