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Novel Approach for Electric Power Generation from Wind

May 9, 2005

University of Texas at Arlington Assistant Professor Shashank Priya and his associates want to change the way small devices are powered. They’re testing various ways to utilize piezoelectric materials and wind or vibrations to create electricity inexpensively.

Piezoelectric materials are those that, when flexed, create an electric charge. In a special arrangement called a bimorph transducer, the piezoelectric layers are separated by a non-conductive material to form a sandwich structure. Only minor flexing needs to occur for a charge to be generated by the bimorph.

Dr. Priya and other Materials Science & Engineering researchers have created two versions of inexpensive generators utilizing wind power. As wind turns a propeller, a cam on the propeller shaft causes flexing in a series of bimorphs that are arranged in circular or stacked patterns. The researchers have created output power of 5 - 50 mW using wind flow of 5 - 10 mph from their crude but inexpensive – less than $20 – prototypes.

Developments by Dr. Priya and his team have been published in the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics. Potential uses of the wind-powered generators include powering remote sensing and communications devices. Most research in this area – small-scale energy-on-demand – has centered on expensive generators such as fuel cells and photoelectric or thermoelectric devices.

Since minor vibrations can also create a charge, Dr. Priya foresees piezoelectric bimorphs being utilized to power a variety of small devices, including insulin pumps powered by the vibrations of a beating human heart or portable radios and CD players powered by the vibrations caused by walking, running or riding a bicycle.