Innovative technology turns tiny vibrations into electricity

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Energy harvesting is an eco-friendly technology that captures wasted energy and converts it into electricity.

Among the various sources of wasted energy, vibrations are particularly promising for energy harvesting.

Recently, vibration energy harvesting has gained significant attention as a next-generation power supply technology because it can generate power consistently, regardless of weather or terrain conditions.

The Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (KRISS) has made a breakthrough in this field by developing a special material, known as a metamaterial, that traps and amplifies tiny vibrations in small areas.

This innovation could significantly boost the power output of energy harvesting devices, making the technology more practical and ready for commercialization.

Their research findings were published in the journal Mechanical Systems and Signal Processing.

Energy harvesting is the process of converting wasted energy, such as heat, light, and vibration, into electrical energy. Solar power is a common form of energy harvesting, using sunlight as its source.

However, solar power has limitations, such as inconsistent output and the inability to generate electricity under certain weather or terrain conditions.

On the other hand, using vibrations as an energy source allows for stable power generation without being affected by the surrounding environment.

This makes vibration energy harvesting a promising option for powering Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that need a constant 24/7 power supply and wearable medical devices that monitor blood pressure and sugar levels in real-time.

One of the main challenges with vibration energy harvesting is its lower power output and higher production costs, which have hindered its practical application.

The amount of power generated is proportional to the magnitude of the harvested vibration, but most everyday vibrations are very small. To capture enough energy, many conversion devices, like piezoelectric elements, need to be installed in areas with relatively large vibrations.

The metamaterial developed by KRISS addresses this issue by trapping and amplifying micro-vibrations within it, increasing their intensity by more than 45 times.

This allows for the generation of significant electrical power with fewer piezoelectric elements. Using this advanced metamaterial, the KRISS research team has managed to produce more than four times the electricity per unit area compared to conventional technologies.

The new metamaterial has a thin, flat structure about the size of an adult’s palm, making it easy to attach to any vibrating surface. Its design can be easily modified to fit various objects, expanding its potential applications.

For example, it can be used in diagnostic sensors to check for damage in high-rise buildings or large bridges, as well as in small biosensors that monitor individuals’ health conditions.

“This research is the first in the world to successfully accumulate and amplify vibrations using a surface metamaterial that temporarily traps vibrations,” said Senior Researcher Lee Hyung Jin from KRISS’s Acoustics, Ultrasound, and Vibration Metrology Group.

Senior Researcher Seung Hong Min from the Non-Destructive Metrology Group also highlighted the potential of this technology, stating, “Metamaterials can be used to develop next-generation high-precision and high-sensitivity sensors by greatly amplifying ultra-fine vibrations that were difficult to measure with conventional sensors.”

The development of this metamaterial by KRISS represents a significant advancement in vibration energy harvesting. By effectively capturing and amplifying tiny vibrations, this technology offers a practical solution for generating electricity from wasted energy.

With its wide range of potential applications, from infrastructure monitoring to personal health devices, this innovation could play a crucial role in the future of sustainable energy and advanced sensor technology.