Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Energy harvesting


Active electronic implants are powered by primary batteries, which induces the necessity of implant replacement after battery depletion. This causes repeated interventions in a patients' life, which bears the risk of complications and is costly. By using energy harvesting devices to power the implant, device replacements may be avoided and the device size may be reduced dramatically. Recently, several groups presented prototypes of implants powered by subcutaneous solar cells. However, data about the expected real-life power output of subcutaneously implanted solar cells was lacking so far. In this study, we report the first real-life validation data of energy harvesting by subcutaneous solar cells. Portable light measurement devices that feature solar cells (cell area = 3.6 cm(2)) and continuously measure a subcutaneous solar cell’s output power were built. The measurement devices were worn by volunteers in their daily routine in summer, autumn and winter. In addition to the measured output power, influences such as season, weather and human activity were analyzed. The obtained mean power over the whole study period was 67 µW (=19 µW cm(-2)), which is sufficient to power e.g. a cardiac pacemaker.

Concepts: Measurement, Solar cell, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Diode, IBM, P-n junction, Energy harvesting


This paper focuses on several aspects extending the dynamical efficiency of a cantilever beam vibrating in the third mode. A few ways of producing this mode stimulation, namely vibro-impact or forced excitation, as well as its application for energy harvesting devices are proposed. The paper presents numerical and experimental analyses of novel structural dynamics effects along with an optimal configuration of the cantilever beam. The peculiarities of a cantilever beam vibrating in the third mode are related to the significant increase of the level of deformations capable of extracting significant additional amounts of energy compared to the conventional harvester vibrating in the first mode. Two types of a piezoelectric vibrating energy harvester (PVEH) prototype are analysed in this paper: the first one without electrode segmentation, while the second is segmented using electrode segmentation at the strain nodes of the third vibration mode to achieve effective operation at the third resonant frequency. The results of this research revealed that the voltage generated by any segment of the segmented PVEH prototype excited at the third resonant frequency demonstrated a 3.4-4.8-fold increase in comparison with the non-segmented prototype. Simultaneously, the efficiency of the energy harvester prototype also increased at lower resonant frequencies from 16% to 90%. The insights presented in the paper may serve for the development and fabrication of advanced piezoelectric energy harvesters which would be able to generate a considerably increased amount of electrical energy independently of the frequency of kinematical excitation.

Concepts: Wave, Frequency, Classical mechanics, Resonance, Vibration, Harmonic oscillator, Standing wave, Energy harvesting


We study the dynamics of h-BN monolayers by first performing ab-initio calculations of the deformation potential energy and then solving numerically a Langevine-type equation to explore their use in nonlinear vibration energy harvesting devices. An applied compressive strain is used to drive the system into a nonlinear bistable regime, where quasi-harmonic vibrations are combined with low-frequency swings between the minima of a double-well potential. Due to its intrinsic piezoelectric response, the nonlinear mechanical harvester naturally provides an electrical power that is readily available or can be stored by simply contacting the monolayer at its ends. Engineering the induced nonlinearity, a 20 nm[Formula: see text] device is predicted to harvest an electrical power of up to 0.18 pW for a noisy vibration of 5 pN.

Concepts: Force, Potential energy, Electrical engineering, Vibration, Energy harvesting


Screen printing allows for direct conversion of thermoelectric nanocrystals into flexible energy harvesters and coolers. However, obtaining flexible thermoelectric materials with high figure of merit ZT through printing is an exacting challenge due to the difficulties to synthesize high-performance thermoelectric inks and the poor density and electrical conductivity of the printed films. Here, we demonstrate high-performance flexible films and devices by screen printing bismuth telluride based nanocrystal inks synthesized using a microwave-stimulated wet-chemical method. Thermoelectric films of several tens of microns thickness were screen printed onto a flexible polyimide substrate followed by cold compaction and sintering. The n-type films demonstrate a peak ZT of 0.43 along with superior flexibility, which is among the highest reported ZT values in flexible thermoelectric materials. A flexible thermoelectric device fabricated using the printed films produces a high power density of 4.1 mW/cm(2) with 60 °C temperature difference between the hot side and cold side. The highly scalable and low cost process to fabricate flexible thermoelectric materials and devices demonstrated here opens up many opportunities to transform thermoelectric energy harvesting and cooling applications.

Concepts: Temperature, Printing, Inkjet printer, Printing press, Thermoelectric effect, Energy harvesting, Printmaking, Thermoelectricity


Here, we report advanced materials and devices that enable high-efficiency mechanical-to-electrical energy conversion from the natural contractile and relaxation motions of the heart, lung, and diaphragm, demonstrated in several different animal models, each of which has organs with sizes that approach human scales. A cointegrated collection of such energy-harvesting elements with rectifiers and microbatteries provides an entire flexible system, capable of viable integration with the beating heart via medical sutures and operation with efficiencies of ∼2%. Additional experiments, computational models, and results in multilayer configurations capture the key behaviors, illuminate essential design aspects, and offer sufficient power outputs for operation of pacemakers, with or without battery assist.

Concepts: Mathematics, Heart, Organ, Science, Reptile, Capacitor, Organs, Energy harvesting


Acoustic vibrations are shown to enhance the photovoltaic efficiency of a P3HT/ZnO nanorod solar cell by up to 45%, correlated to a three-fold increase in charge carrier lifetime. This is assigned to the generation of piezoelectric dipoles in the ZnO nanorods, indicating that the efficiency of solar cells may be enhanced in the presence of ambient vibrations by the use of piezoelectric materials.

Concepts: Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Dye-sensitized solar cell, Photovoltaic module, Band gap, Photovoltaic array, Energy harvesting, Solar tracker


The control of electromechanical responses within bonding regions is essential to face frontier challenges in nanotechnologies, such as molecular electronics and biotechnology. Here, we present Iβ-nanocellulose as a potentially new orthotropic 2D piezoelectric crystal. The predicted in-layer piezoelectricity is originated on a sui-generis hydrogen bonds pattern. Upon this fact and by using a combination of ab-initio and ad-hoc models, we introduce a description of electrical profiles along chemical bonds. Such developments lead to obtain a rationale for modelling the extended piezoelectric effect originated within bond scales. The order of magnitude estimated for the 2D Iβ-nanocellulose piezoelectric response, ~pm V(-1), ranks this material at the level of currently used piezoelectric energy generators and new artificial 2D designs. Such finding would be crucial for developing alternative materials to drive emerging nanotechnologies.

Concepts: Oxygen, Crystal, Molecule, Atom, Quartz, Piezoelectricity, Energy harvesting


A flexible single crystalline PMN-PT piezoelectric energy harvester is demonstrated to achieve a self-powered artificial cardiac pacemaker. The energy harvesting device generates a short-circuit current of 0.223 mA and an open-circuit voltage of 8.2 V, which are enough to meet the standard for not only charging commercial batteries but also stimulating heart without an external power source.

Concepts: Cardiology, Cardiac pacemaker, Sinoatrial node, Piezoelectricity, Volt, Artificial pacemaker, Electrical conduction system of the heart, Energy harvesting


We report on highly stretchable piezoelectric structures of electrospun PVDF-TrFE nanofibers. We fabricated nanofibrous PVDF-TrFE yarns via twisting their electrospun ribbons. Our results show that the twisting process, not only increases the failure strain, but also increases overall strength and toughness. The nanofibrous yarns achieve a remarkable energy to failure of up to 98 J/g. Through over-twisting process, we fabricated polymeric coils out of twisted yarns that can stretch up to ~740% strain. This enhancement in mechanical properties is likely induced by increased interactions between nanofibers, contributed by friction and vdW (van der Waals) interactions, as well as favorable surface charge (Columbic) interactions as a result of piezoelectric effect, for which we present a theoretical model. The fabricated yarns and coils show great promise for applications in high performance light-weight structural materials and super-stretchable piezoelectric devices and flexible energy harvesting applications.

Concepts: Structure, Condensed matter physics, Van der Waals force, Piezoelectricity, Energy harvesting


Vibration energy harvesters scavenge energy from mechanical vibrations to energise low power electronic devices. In this work, we report on vibration energy harvesting scheme based on the charging phenomenon occurring naturally between two bodies with different work functions. Such work function energy harvester (WFEH) is similar to electrostatic energy harvester with the fundamental distinction that neither external power supplies nor electrets are needed. A theoretical model and description of different operation modes of WFEHs are presented. The WFEH concept is tested with macroscopic experiments, which agree well with the model. The feasibility of miniaturizing WFEHs is shown by simulating a realistic MEMS device. The WFEH can be operated as a charge pump that pushes charge and energy into an energy storage element. We show that such an operation mode is highly desirable for applications and that it can be realised with either a charge shuttle or with switches. The WFEH is shown to give equal or better output power in comparison to traditional electrostatic harvesters. Our findings indicate that WFEH has great potential in energy harvesting applications.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Frequency, Capacitor, Potential energy, Vibration, Mode shape, Critical speed, Energy harvesting