Raiders of the lost amp

July 5, 2011

Energy harvesting is a process that captures energy that would otherwise be lost as heat, light, sound, vibration or motion. It can use this captured energy to improve the efficiency of existing systems or even to power new technologies.

A high-profile example of is Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS). These recover the of a moving vehicle when it is braking and store it to use later when accelerating. KERS are currently being used by nine teams in the 2011 Formula One season and are under development for road vehicles.

NPL is part of the Metrology for Energy Harvesting project - a research collaboration that brings together Europe's expertise in measurement, energy harvesting and systems engineering. The consortium's research aims to make various energy-harvesting technologies more efficient and practical. It ultimately wants to help industry to develop energy harvesting technologies to lower costs and increase .

At the Summer Science Exhibition scientists from NPL will demonstrate the hidden sources of 'wasted' energy that they are looking to harvest. Their stand's interactive 'Energy Race' will pit different energy-capturing technologies against each other to produce electrical power.

Visitors can learn about the importance of thermodynamics in energy harvesting and about how vibrations can be used to produce .

They can also see how energy harvesting is already being achieved through a variety of processes, including

  • Vibration, movement and sound can be captured and transformed into electrical power using piezoelectric materials. literally translates as 'electricity resulting from pressure'. In these materials, electric charge is produced in response to applied . Human motion, low-frequency vibrations, and acoustic noise are just some of the potential sources that could be harvested by .
  • Heat can be captured and transformed into electrical power using thermoelectric materials. When there is a temperature difference across one of these materials (i.e. one side hot, the other cold), a voltage is created across the material. If the temperature difference is kept constant, this voltage can be used to provide electrical power.
Laurie Winkless, a higher research scientist from NPL working on energy harvesting, said:
"The energy debate is more than fossil fuels versus renewable or nuclear - it's about getting as much as we can from what we already use. Energy harvesting is a way for industry and government to capture wasted energy and use it to make existing processes more efficient or for new applications such as wireless sensor networks. It can also help individuals to be more energy efficient, saving them money as well as contributing to the fight against climate change."

Explore further: Pickin' Up Good Vibrations to Produce Green Electricity

Related Stories

Good vibrations

March 23, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Energy harvesting - using vibrations from the environment to produce electricity - has been around for over a decade, but Dr Stephen Burrow and his team in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University ...

Nanogenerators for energy harvesting technology

July 9, 2010

The journal, Nano Letters, recently published an article highlighting the fascinating nanogenerators developed by Dr. Yong Shi, a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stevens Institute of Technology. The ...

Recommended for you

Smart home heating and cooling

August 28, 2015

Smart temperature-control devices—such as thermostats that learn and adjust to pre-programmed temperatures—are poised to increase comfort and save energy in homes.

Smallest 3-D camera offers brain surgery innovation

August 28, 2015

To operate on the brain, doctors need to see fine details on a small scale. A tiny camera that could produce 3-D images from inside the brain would help surgeons see more intricacies of the tissue they are handling and lead ...

Team creates functional ultrathin solar cells

August 27, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria has developed an ultrathin solar cell for use in lightweight and flexible applications. In their paper published in the journal Nature Materials, ...

Interactive tool lifts veil on the cost of nuclear energy

August 24, 2015

Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.