Harvesting energy from the straps of a backpack using piezoelectric materials

  • Sodano H
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Over the past few decades the use of portable and wearable electronics has grown steadily. These devices are becoming increasingly more powerful, however, the gains that have been made in the device performance has resulted in the need for significantly higher power to operate the electronics. This issue has been further complicated due to the stagnate growth of battery technology over the past decade. In order to increase the life of these electronics, researchers have begun investigating methods of generating energy from ambient sources such that the life of the electronics can be prolonged. Recent developments in the field have led to the design of a number of mechanisms that can be used to generate electrical energy, from a variety of sources including thermal, solar, strain, inertia, etc. Many of these energy sources are available for use with humans, but their use must be carefully considered such that parasitic effects that could disrupt the user's gait or endurance are avoided. These issues have arisen from previous attempts to integrate power harvesting mechanisms into a shoe such that the energy released during a heal strike could be harvested. This study develops a novel energy harvesting backpack that can generate electrical energy from the differential forces between the wearer and the pack. The goal of this system is to make the energy harvesting device transparent to the wearer such that his or her endurance and dexterity is not compromised. This will be accomplished by replacing the traditional strap of the backpack with one made of the piezoelectric polymer polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). Piezoelectric materials have a structure such that an applied electrical potential results in a mechanical strain. Conversely, an applied stress results in the generation of an electrical charge, which makes the material useful for power harvesting applications. PVDF is highly flexible and has a high strength allowing it to effectively act as the load bearing member. In order to preserve the performance of the backpack and user, the design of the pack will be held as close to existing systems as possible. This paper develops a theoretical model of the piezoelectric strap and uses experimental testing to identify its performance in this application.

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  • Henry A. Sodano

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