Nano Science and Technology Institute

Automobile instruments harvest energy from road vibration to keep sensors running

No batteries required!

Story content courtesy of Cornell University Press Office

New York’s MicroGen Systems Inc. and Cornell University’s Cornell Nanoscale Facility, have collaborated to develop battery-free sensors that can operate in anything that spins, rolls, jiggles or shakes, like car tires and clothing dryers.

The battery device is a tiny sheet of a piezoelectric material that generates electricity when mounted on a shock-resistant base and it is flexed. Vibration like a spinning automobile wheel causes the tiny flap to swing back and forth, generating current that charges an adjacent thin-film battery. The prototype – about the size of a quarter – puts out up to 200 microwatts. As circuits become smaller and need less power, the device can shrink with them.

Several companies have already expressed interest in MicroGen’s energy harvester technology.

MicroGen is also working with R. Bruce van Dover, professor of materials science and engineering at Cornell, to refine the technology, particularly to develop a version that can withstand high temperatures, aiming for sensors in jet engines.

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