Energy can be harvested from unwanted vibrations found in most industrial processes and our environment.
Currently, the energy is mainly harvested from the resonant area of the frequency spectrum.
This project aims to use new materials (called 'bistable composites') to harvest energy from a much wider range of frequencies, therefore capturing more energy that can be used to power low energy electronics such as wireless sensor networks.
This three year project ('Optimisation of Broadband Energy Harvesters Using Bistable Composites' - funded by the EPSRC) began in January 2012, and is led by the University of Bath. Bath's researchers are working with NPL, the University of Bristol, and Perpetuum Ltd.
Bistable composites, as their name suggests, are materials that can be stable in two different configurations depending on where a force is applied. The bistable composite used in this project is a carbon fibre laminate that 'snaps' between two different shape configurations when weight is applied.
These materials can be used to harvest energy that would otherwise be wasted, and use it to power low energy electronics at no cost. This works by converting the mechanical energy from environmental vibrations (such as cars driving along a road, or footsteps across a station concourse, or a rattling air conditioning unit) into useable electrical energy.
NPL's measurement expertise will be vital to this project as it involves making very complex measurements of the bistable composites' chaotic response to environmental vibrations.
The project partners aim to design and build experimental energy harvesting devices that could be used in real world applications across a range of industries such as Oil & Gas, Transport, and Power Generation.
Provided by NPL
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