Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Mechanical Engineering


Thompson, Lonny

Committee Member

Li, Gang

Committee Member

Daqaq, Mohammed

Committee Member

Zhao, Huijuan


Innovation in integrated circuit technology along with improved manufacturing processes has resulted in considerable reduction in power consumption of electromechanical devices. Majority of these devices are currently powered by batteries. However, the issues posed by batteries, including the need for frequent battery recharge/replacement has resulted in a compelling need for alternate energy to achieve self-sufficient device operation or to supplement battery power. Vibration based energy harvesting methods through piezoelectric transduction provides with a promising potential towards replacing or supplementing battery power source. However, current piezoelectric energy harvesters generate low specific power (power-to-weight ratio) when compared to batteries that the harvesters seek to replace or supplement. In this study, the potential of integrating lightweight cellular honeycomb structures with existing piezoelectric device configurations (bimorph) to achieve higher specific power is investigated. It is shown in this study that at low excitation frequency ranges, replacing the solid continuous substrate of a conventional piezoelectric bimorph with honeycomb structures of the same material results in a significant increase in power-to-weight ratio of the piezoelectric harvester. In order to maximize the electrical response of vibration based power harvesters, the natural frequency of these harvesters is designed to match the input driving frequency. The commonly used technique of adding a tip mass is employed to lower the natural frequency (to match driving frequency) of both, solid and honeycomb substrate bimorphs. At higher excitation frequency, the natural frequency of the traditional solid substrate bimorph can only be altered (to match driving frequency) through a change in global geometric design parameters, typically achieved by increasing the thickness of the harvester. As a result, the size of the harvester is increased and can be disadvantageous especially if the application imposes a space/size constraint. Moreover, the bimorph with increased thickness will now require a larger mechanical force to deform the structure which can fall outside the input ambient excitation amplitude range. In contrast, the honeycomb core bimorph offers an advantage in terms of preserving the global geometric dimensions. The natural frequency of the honeycomb core bimorph can be altered by manipulating honeycomb cell design parameters, such as cell angle, cell wall thickness, vertical cell height and inclined cell length. This results in a change in the mass and stiffness properties of the substrate and hence the bimorph, thereby altering the natural frequency of the harvester. Design flexibility of honeycomb core bimorphs is demonstrated by varying honeycomb cell parameters to alter mass and stiffness properties for power harvesting. The influence of honeycomb cell parameters on power generation is examined to evaluate optimum design to attain highest specific power. In addition, the more compliant nature of a honeycomb core bimorph decreases susceptibility towards fatigue and can increase the operating lifetime of the harvester. The second component of this dissertation analyses an uncoupled equivalent circuit model for piezoelectric energy harvesting. Open circuit voltage developed on the piezoelectric materials can be easily computed either through analytical or finite element models. The efficacy of a method to determine power developed across a resistive load, by representing the coupled piezoelectric electromechanical problem with an external load as an open circuit voltage driven equivalent circuit, is evaluated. The lack of backward feedback at finite resistive loads resulting from such an equivalent representation is examined by comparing the equivalent circuit model to the governing equations of a fully coupled circuit model for the electromechanical problem. It is found that the backward feedback is insignificant for weakly coupled systems typically seen in micro electromechanical systems and other energy harvesting device configurations with low coupling. For moderate to high coupling systems, a correction factor based on a calibrated resistance is presented which can be used to evaluate power generation at a specific resistive load.