Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Mechanical Engineering

Advisor

Daqaq, Mohammed F

Committee Member

Biggers , Sherrill

Committee Member

Li , Gang

Committee Member

Vahidi , Ardalan

Abstract

The last two decades have witnessed several advances in micro-fabrication technologies and electronics, leading to the development of small, low-power devices for wireless sensing, data transmission, actuation, and medical implants. Unfortunately, the actual implementation of such devices in their respective environment has been hindered by the lack of scalable energy sources that are necessary to power and maintain them. Batteries, which remain the most commonly used power source, have not kept pace with the demands of these devices, especially in terms of energy density. In light of this challenge, the concept of vibratory energy harvesting has flourished in recent years as a possible alternative to power and maintain low-power electronics.

While linear vibratory energy harvesters have received the majority of the literature's attention, a significant body of the current research activity is focused on the concept of purposeful inclusion of nonlinearities for broadband transduction. When compared to their linear resonant counterparts, nonlinear energy harvesters have a wider steady-state frequency bandwidth, leading to the common belief that they can be utilized to improve performance especially in random and non-stationary vibratory environments. This dissertation aims to critically investigate this belief by drawing a clearer picture of the role of nonlinearities in the transduction of energy harvesters and by defining the conditions under which nonlinearities can be used to enhance performance.

To achieve this goal, the Thesis is divided into three parts. The first part investigates the performance of mono- and bi-stable energy harvesters under harmonic excitations and carries a detailed analysis of their relative performance. The second part investigates their response to broadband and narrowband random excitations and again analyzes their relative behavior. The third part exploits the super-harmonic resonance bands of bi-stable energy harvesters for the purpose of scavenging energy from low-frequency excitations. As a platform to achieve the Thesis objectives, a piezoelectric energy harvester consisting of an axially loaded clamped-clamped beam bi-morph is considered. The harvester can operate with mono- (pre-buckling) and bi-stable (post-buckling) characteristics with minimal alterations to the design. Theoretical and experimental studies performed on the proposed harvester are presented to delineate the influence of the nonlinearity on its performance, in particular, and nonlinear vibratory energy harvesters in general.

It is demonstrated that the intentional inclusion of nonlinearities in energy harvesters makes these devices more tolerant to variations in the excitation and design parameters around their nominal values as compared to a linear device. However, the Thesis also pointed out many issues that can result from the complexity and non-uniqueness of solutions associated with nonlinear systems. It became apparent that the performance of a nonlinear energy harvester is very much dependent on the level and nature of the excitation in conjunction with the potential shape of the harvester. This makes developing direct performance metrics, similar to what has been done for linear harvesters, a challenging problem which should constitute a major avenue of future research efforts.

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