Dead batteries may soon be a thing of the past. Researchers in Singapore have found a way to efficiently harness low frequency vibrations as a power source for miniature electronic devices.

A*STAR's energy harvester. Image: Institute of Microelectronics

A team from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is tapping into low frequency vibrations — the most abundant and universal energy source in our environment — as a means to power small-scale electronic devices, such as mobile electronics.

The A*STAR energy harvester can continuously convert vibrations of different frequencies into electricity. This breakthrough offers a green, economical and sustainable long-term solution to eliminate the manual recharging or replacement of power sources in miniature devices.

Previous attempts to harvest electricity from low frequency vibrations have focused on expanding the size of the device in order to attain maximum power output. However, this limits the potential applications of energy harvesters. In addition, most reported designs can only operate at one fixed frequency, which significantly reduces the power generation efficiency in practical environments

To address these design challenges, researchers at A*STAR’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME) have developed an aluminium nitride-based energy harvester that can generate enough electricity to power three commercial implantable batteries over a ten-year period. What’s more, the device can harvest the widest possible spectrum of low frequency vibrational sources, ranging from 10-100Hz. This will make it possible to harness real-world vibrational sources more productively, in spite of their irregularity and randomness.

“This breakthrough presents tremendous opportunities to realise a practical, sustainable and efficient energy renewal model for a wide range of applications – from implantable medical devices, wireless communication and sensor networks, to other mobile electronics that enable a future mobile society,” says Professor Dim-Lee Kwong, executive director of IME.

The IME team is currently fine-tuning the energy harvester’s features to achieve greater performance.

For further information contact:

Dr Shin-Miin Song
Institute of Microelectronics
Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore