Piezoelectric power, or electricity produced in response to applied mechanical stress, keeps popping up on our radar. Recently, we looked at a French city’s plan to implant piezoelectric microsensors in its sidewalks, and just last week we had the opportunity to chat with Stanford students working on piezoelectric vibrational energy harvestors for vehicles, or piezeoelectric sensors that can power certain vehicle functions using normal vibrations.
The key to the technology is a tiny energy harvesting silicon wafer (pictured) that features a thin film of piezoelectric material in its mid-section. The students tested their technology in the Audi A8, with mostly successful results. “We’ve measured vibrations throughout the vehicle to see where they are are largest,” explained Mandy Phillippine, a Stanford student working on the project. So far, the students have been able to generate 25 microwatts of power with the system. The goal is to reach energy generation in the hundreds of microwatts–just enough to power vehicle sensors.
It’s still very much a work in progress, but one day the technology could be integrated into Audi vehicles as another way to prevent drivers from wasting precious energy.