LONDON Engineers at the University of Southampton have developed a kinetic energy generator which generates electrical energy from the vibrations and movements present within its environment and claims it to be 10 times more powerful than any other similar devices.
The generator, developed by Dr Steve Beeby and his team at the University's School of Electronics & Computer Science (ECS), is less than 1 cubic cm in size, and was designed as part of the EU-funded €4.13 million (about $5.6million) VIBES (Vibration Energy Scavenging) project.
It has been designed to power wireless sensors that monitor the condition of industrial plant and is intended to be installed within an air compressor unit supplying several laboratories within a building.
It could also be used in wireless, self-powered tyre sensors and if developed further, could even form the basis of technology for self-powered pace makers. The technology offers the potential to replace or augment batteries. The periodic replacement of batteries is not feasible for embedded applications and is highly unattractive in wireless sensor networks containing hundreds of sensor nodes.
“Vibration energy harvesting is receiving a considerable amount of interest as a means for powering wireless sensor nodes,” said Dr Beeby. 'The big advantage of wireless sensor systems is that by removing wires and batteries, there is the potential for embedding sensors in previously inaccessible locations.'
Dr Beeby and his team plan to exploit this application further through Perpetuum, the vibration energy-harvesting company which was formed in 2004 as a spin out from the University of Southampton.
Other collaborators in the VIBES project are: Tima – Techniques of Informatics and MicroElectronics for Computer Architecture, France, 01dB-Metravib, France, Phillips Applied Technologies, Belgium, MEMSCAP, France, Femto-st, Dept. LPMO – Laboratory of Physics and the measurement of oscillator, France, Phillips Research, Eindhoven, Netherlands, EPFL- Federal Polytechnical School of Lausanne, Laboratoire de Céramique, Switzerland.