Cornell and MicroGen car sensors and instruments harvest power from road vibrations

Aug 9, 2011
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On a normal vehicle with a combustion engine, the power needed to operate the various instruments inside the car is not that big of a deal since you have power as long as the fuel holds out. On an EV or hybrid the less drain on the battery, the longer the driving distance so in these vehicles shedding all the power drain possible from the batteries is a big deal.

Cornell University and a company called MicroGen are working on a new type of instrument that harvests power from road vibrations to make the gear operate. The sensors used for the instruments able to operate in anything that spins, rolls, shakes, or jiggles. MicroGen and Corenell University's Cornell Nanoscale Facility are working to develop the battery free sensors.

The battery that generates the power for the sensors is a tiny sheet of piezoelectric material that makes electricity when mounted on a shock-resistant base when it is flexed. Vibrations created by things like the wheel of a car rolling or a dryer doing its thing in your home make a little flap in the sheet swing back and forth, generating a current in a thin-film batter in the system. The prototype device about the size of a quarter generates up to 200 microwatts.


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