Piezoelectric manufacturer MicroGen Systems is set to create chips that can convert vibrations into electricity to power sensors. The Ithaca, New York based company is looking at producing an energy scavenging chip that can convert the environmental vibrations into a source of power for wireless sensors.
The chip is made up of an array of tiny silicon cantilevers which are about one square centimeter. These are situated on the postage stamp sized tin film battery. When the chip is shaken the cantilevers oscillate and the piezoelectrical base of the cantilevers produces electrical potential from these vibrations.
As per the designers the system can produce 200 microwatts of power which will be ideal for low power applications. It is a good stepping stone to improved utilizations in the future for this technology. Critics have said that other harvesting techniques like solar, light and heat are more competitive technologies as they can store the electrical energy on a battery as well as use it right away.
However that does not deter the founder and president of MicroGen Sytems, Robert Andosca. They have finally found a way to store the electrical energy from the vibrations on board the device in a battery. He says that his chips differ from other vibrational energy-harvesting devices because they have low manufacturing costs and use nontoxic material instead of PZT, which contains lead.
Other piezoelectric materials need to be hand assembled and can be large but these chips are small and based on silicon microelectrical mechanical systems. They are also less expensive and can be made on the machines that are used to make computer chips.