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Energy harvesting by vibration using piezoceramic materials (PZT-4)

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The concept of energy harvesting in the ambient environment is of great interest. Energy harvesting is the process of drawing out a small amount of energy from the ambient environment. The ambient environment is characterized by various available sources of energy such as solar, wind, vibration, gas, liquid flows, etc., which can be converted to usable energy. Vibration energy harvesting is a mechanical process of gathering ambient energy from vibrating sources that can be converted into electrical energy using different techniques of conversion. Vibration energy is available in the urban and industrial environment, but it is often overlooked as a source of power to be scavenged and to provide electricity. There are various techniques for conversion of harvesting ambient energy found in nature. The main harvesting techniques are electromagnetic conversion, electrostatic conversion and piezoelectric conversion. In this context, this research study is concerned with finding a way to harvest electrical energy from vibration. Piezoelectric conversion is able to produce high electrical energy unlike electromagnetic and electrostatic conversion. Piezoelectric materials have a large capacity for conversion of energy due to their inherent ability to detect vibration sources. This conversion of mechanical energy to electrical energy through the use of piezoelectric materials is an exciting and rapidly developing area of research with a widening range of applications constantly materializing. The experiments for this study were performed at the Vibration Research and Testing Centre (VRTC) laboratory of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. An electrodynamic vibration (shaker) connected to the prototype (cantilever beam plus piezoelectric material, i.e. ceramic plate PZT-4) was used to simulate ambient vibration to collect the data. The experiments were designed to optimise power output of the prototype by estimating the output voltage. Two setups of prototype were used: a cantilever beam with a tip mass at the end and a cantilever beam without tip mass at the end. Data from the experiment was compared and analysed using MatLab. The results showed that the power output of the prototype with the tip mass was greater than the power output without the tip mass. The results of this study contribute to the development of piezoelectric power generation as a viable source of electrical energy with minimal environment impact


M. Sc. Eng. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2014.


Energy harvesting., Energy conversion., Renewable energy sources., Piezoelectric ceramics., Piezoelectric devices., Theses--Mechanical engineering.