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This paper presents an electromagnetic (EM) vibration-to-electrical power generator for wireless sensors, which can scavenge energy from low-frequency external vibrations. For most wireless applications, the ambient vibration is generally at very low frequencies (1-100 Hz), and traditional scavenging techniques cannot generate enough energy for proper operation. The reported generator up-converts low-frequency environmental vibrations to a higher frequency through a mechanical frequency up-converter using a magnet, and hence provides more efficient energy conversion at low frequencies. Power is generated by means of EM induction using a magnet and coils on top of resonating cantilever beams. The proposed approach has been demonstrated using a macroscale version, which provides 170 nW maximum power and 6 mV maximum voltage. For the microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) version, the expected maximum power and maximum voltage from a single cantilever is 3.97 muW and 76 mV, respectively, in vacuum. Power level can be increased further by using series-connected cantilevers without increasing the overall generator area, which is 4 mm2. This system provides more than an order of magnitude better energy conversion for 10-100 Hz ambient vibration range, compared to a conventional large mass/coil system.
Date of Publication: March 2008