Piezoelectric devices have been largely used in all kinds of energy harvesting devices, but the latest discoveries showed that piezoelectricity can truly be both useful and versatile for a large range of uses.
Researchers from the University of Notre Dame in the US have designed a PZT (lead zirconate titanate) piezoelectric device that resembles skin (they called it the EH skin) and that can harness energy from the mechanical work applied to it. The new device can be used in a variety of applications, ranging from wireless sensor units to patches that get energy from vibrations and pass it on to the grid. The sample they tested got as much as 3.7 mW.
“EH skin is a new and innovative design paradigm for vibration and thermal energy harvesting,” Youn told PhysOrg.com. “The EH skin was proposed to overcome the disadvantages of a traditional cantilever-type EH device and enables a power-generating skin structure. The cantilever-type EH devices require a bulky device fixture, resulting in significant energy loss due to imperfect clamping. To the contrary, the EH skin enables a compact and highly efficient EH implementation as a part of a vibrating structure.”
The researchers (Soobum Lee and Byeng Yong) justified the usefulness of their invention with the fact that changing batteries for wireless sensors usually costs somewhere around $80 to $500 per battery, including labor, which is very expensive compared to the actual cost of the sensor. Embedding piezoelectric devices such as the EH skin could literally save thousands of dollars annually and could be fueled by running air conditioners, for example, or any other source of vibration.