Virginia Tech researchers have developed an energy harvester that produces greater electrical output than similar technology of the same size -- slightly smaller than a credit card.

Energy harvesters -- devices that convert other forms of energy to electricity -- are poised to replace batteries, providing limitless power to a wide range of low-power electronics like medical implants and portable devices.

The new L-beam design provides more than twice the voltage of existing designs, according to Inventor Alper Erturk, a Ph.D. candidate in engineering science and mechanics at Virginia Tech. Erturk, of Eskisehir, Turkey, developed the L-beam energy harvester with co-inventors Jamil Renno of Saida City, Lebanon, a recent Ph.D. graduate, and Dan Inman of Blacksburg, Va., the George R. Goodson Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Intelligent Material Systems and Structures.

Just like the sparks made in lighters used to start barbecue grills and fireplaces, the piezoelectric material at the heart of this new technology turns vibrations into electricity. But this L-shaped harvester not only provides more voltage, it also scavenges electricity from a wide range of vibrational frequencies. "This ability significantly expands the applications where the L-beam harvester can be used," said Inman.

Funding has come from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and Inman notes that ongoing development will continue to increase the electrical output and enable tuning the harvester to the vibrations in a wider range of environments.

Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc., the commercialization arm of Virginia Tech, will feature the L-beam energy harvester at the Mid-Atlantic Innovation Showcase in Tysons Corner, Va. on Nov. 14. Learn more about the invention online or contact John Geikler with Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties at (540) 443-9228.


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