Researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore) have created a low-cost tool that can capture electricity from wind energy as moderate as a light breeze.
When exposed to winds with a velocity as low as two metres per second (m/s), this recently designed device can produce a voltage of three volts and generate power of up to 290 microwatts.
This is sufficient to power a commercial sensor gadget and allow it to transmit data to a computer or a phone.
The small, strong gadget, known as a wind harvester, also directs any unused electricity to a battery so that it may be stored and used to power equipment when there is no wind.
The 15 by 20 cm gadget, according to the NTU team, can be simply put on the side of buildings and is perfect for urban settings, such as Singaporean suburbs, where typical wind speeds are less than 2.5 m/s outside of thunderstorms.
The main attachment of the wind harvester, which interacts with the wind, is made of inexpensive materials like copper, aluminium foil, and polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as Teflon, and is attached to the body of the device by fibre epoxy, an extremely durable polymer. The harvester vibrates when exposed to wind flow, which causes its plate to move towards and away from the stopper.
The researchers claim that their creation has the potential to replace batteries in the powering of sensors for structural health monitoring and light-emitting diode (LED) lights. These are used to check on the structural health of urban structures like skyscrapers and bridges, warning engineers of problems like instability or physical damage.
“As a renewable and clean energy source, wind power generation has attracted extensive research attention,” said Professor Yang Yaowen, who led the project. “Our research aims to tackle the lack of a small-scale energy harvester for more targeted functions, such as to power smaller sensors and electronic devices. The device we developed also serves as a potential alternative to smaller lithium-ion batteries, as our wind harvester is self-sufficient and would only require occasional maintenance, and does not use heavy metals, which, if not disposed of properly, could cause environmental problems.”
The NTU team is now working on improving the energy storage functions of their device, as well as experimenting with different materials to improve its output power.
- Chaoyang Zhao, Guobiao Hu, Yaowen Yang. A cantilever-type vibro-impact triboelectric energy harvester for wind energy harvesting. Mechanical Systems and Signal Processing, 2022; 177: 109185. DOI: 10.1016/j.ymssp.2022.109185
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