A New Model Optimizes Power Harvesting from Road Vibrations in Cars

A new model produced by researchers in the Arab world optimizes the power harvested from road vibrations in cars, by identifying many of the parameters involved in the production of said power, and testing them in real-life models.

As the industrial world constantly needs more energy to keep functioning, the potential for energy harvesting becomes ever more appealing. One of the most talked about methods of energy harvesting is utilizing cars suspension system in a way that both dampens car vibrations and stores useful energy at the same time. That energy could later be used for running various electrical microsystems in the car. A medium-size car can harvest approximately 350 W while driving on a paved road, which is enough for charging a laptop and a few LEDs.

There are many different methods for harvesting vibration energy in cars, but piezoelectric transduction, in which mechanical energy is transformed into electricity, is one of the most popular methods. This method is simple, can operate in a wide vibration frequency range, and provides the highest power density.

Piezoelectric patches can be placed in several locations in the car, such as the car suspension springs, suspension wheels, tires, and up front or in the rear. The power output is also affected by many factors like the car velocity, road roughness and the size and nature of the piezoelectric patch. In fact, in optimized conditions the power output can be increased seven-fold or more than in non-optimal conditions.

Researchers from the United Arab Emirates University, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Helwan University in Egypt and Khalifa University in the United Arab Emirates recently joined forces to produce a new model that can help optimize the power output harvested from car vibrations. Their model examined the effect of attaching a stack of piezoelectric patches to the suspension’s springs, and analyzed the various factors that affect the level of harvested energy. 

Experimental setup of quarter-car model with piezoelectric stack. Source

The model was developed and analyzed in computer simulations, and was then examined in real-life, on a partial car model (“quarter-car” and “half-car” models). The researchers discovered that as the road uneveness amplitude increased, so did the harvester power output. Additionally, the dimensions of the piezoelectric stack, as well as some parameters of the car suspension system like masses and damping coefficients, also had a significant effect on the harvested power.

The researchers showed that under optimal conditions, they could increase the output voltage by a factor of 50 – from 0.12 to 6 V. While such optimal conditions are often difficult to achieve in real-life conditions, research works like this one could help create more efficient systems for harvesting vibration energy in cars. This accomplishment may eventually help scale up these kinds of systems, thus lowering the need for polluting fossil fuels.

The researchers involved in this work were Tariq Darabseh from the United Arab Emirates University and Jordan University of Science and Technology, Doaa Al-Yafeai from the United Arab Emirates University, Abdel-Hamid I. Mourad from the United Arab Emirates University and Helwan University in Egypt, and Fahad Almaskari from Khalifa University in the United Arab Emirates.

Original content by Nawartna

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