Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting
The exponential growth of the "alternative energy" industry in the last few years shows great promise in regards to the energy independence of the United States. For awhile now, the energy responsible for our success has been provided by fossil fuels; petroleum, natural gas, coal, etc. But we all realize that these are finite resources and the energy source that will power our future success lies elsewhere. The future of sustainable, clean power lies in other, more abstract opportunities. Wind, of course, is a viable option. Solar, indeed, will also play a part. Tidal Wave is yet another viable method. Geothermal is particularly appealing due to its simplicity: basically stick a pipe in the ground, and you're done. Well, there's more to it but you get my drift. My favorite that I've been reading about lately is called Piezoelectric energy harvesting.
Sidewalk Power Generator?
What is it?
So generally Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting is based upon the piezoelectric effect. Yeah, I know. Real ground breaking stuff. The essence of the piezoelectric effect works as follows: by applying a mechanical stress to a crystal, one can generate a voltage or potential energy difference, and thus a current. Also by applying a current to a piezoelectric one can stress or strain the material. The mechanical stress can be supplied by any source. But with so many people walking around from place to place, why not harness that kinetic energy to power stuff, right?
How Is This Energy Harnessed?
So with the basic idea laid out, how can this phenomenon be but to use in generating electricity. A lot of ways. One highly viable option is to lay piezoelectric crystal arrays underneath sidewalks, stairwells, and pretty much any other high traffic area to power street lights or whatever else you care to plug in. The armed forces toyed with the idea of putting piezoelectric materials in soldiers boots to power radios and other portable electronic gear. This turned out to be not feasible with current technology at the present time due to the extra weight and discomfort of the setup, but it may be possible later on. Several nightclubs, mostly in Europe have already begun to power their strobes and stereos using the force of hundreds of people pounding on piezoelectric lined dancefloors. Several gyms, notable in Portland and a few other places are powered by a comination of piezoelectric set ups and generators set up on stationary bikes. We're really just looking at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the uses of human kinetic energy of people in motion to create energy.
Gyms Can Generate Their Own Energy
More To Come
Every week some new discovery concerning uses of piezoelectric energy is uncovered. Even though the idea has been around for awhile, in microphones, amplifiers, and other applications, electricity production in this area is in its infancy. One cool idea concerns piezoelectric nanowires embedded in clothing to create energy.
People Powered Dance Club in Holland
A Final Word On Energy Harvesting
In the near future, the lights at your favorite coffee shop or the stereo system at your local bar could very well be powered by foot traffic. If we want to maintain a certain lifestyle in an increasingly competitive, resource strapped world, we need to think outside the box when it comes to energy production. There are a million sources of clean, environmentally conscious power all around us, we just have to explore and utilize these sources in the most efficient manner possible. Ambient energy capture will no doubt play a large part in the future of renewable energy, and there's no time like the present to work on developing new, innovative means of electricity generation. I feel confident in saying that the world of tommorow looks pretty bright, both literally and figuratively.