Hybrid Energy Harvester Charges Using Heat and Vibrations

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Scientists from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) developed a revolutionary hybrid energy harvester that combines heat and vibration to produce over 50 percent more power than conventional systems.

Dr. Hyun-Cheol Song and Dr. Sunghoon Hur from the Electronic Materials Research Center at KIST created a solution that promises to transform the way IoT sensors and wireless devices are powered in challenging environments.

According to Techxplore, energy harvesting (the process of converting ambient energy sources into electricity) has been gaining traction as a prominent player in the quest for greener, more efficient tech. Environments like industrial sites and vehicles have an abundance of heat, vibration, light, and electromagnetic waves – all energies that could be harnessed for a viable alternative to traditional power sources, especially in areas where battery replacement is impractical.

The research team’s breakthrough comes from their innovative approach to combining two methods with significant limitations into one effective method. The thermoelectric effect (converting thermal energy into electricity) suffers from low efficiency, while the piezoelectric effect (transforming mechanical vibration into electrical energy) struggles with high impedance which hinders reliable energy harvesting.

The researchers tackled these limitations by developing a thermoelectric-piezoelectric hybrid energy harvester, creating a synergistic effect by complementing the shortcomings of each method. This hybrid system has successfully powered a commercial IoT sensor, thus opening a door for continuous operation without relying on battery power.

When it comes to real-world applications, Hur expressed his optimism: “This study confirms that the hybrid energy harvesting system can be reliably applied to our real lives. We have confirmed its effectiveness in places where heat and vibration exist together, such as automobile engines, and are currently planning to build a system that can be applied to factory facilities or construction machinery engines that are difficult to supply power and diagnose their condition wirelessly.”