Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Member

Dr. John Wagner, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Yue (Sophie) Wang

Committee Member

Dr. Todd Schweisinger


The advent of renewable energy as a primary power source for microelectronic devices has motivated research within the energy harvesting community over the past decade. Compact, self-contained, portable energy harvesters can be applied to wireless sensor networks, Internet of Things (IoT) smart appliances, and a multitude of standalone equipment; replacing batteries and improving the operational life of such systems. Atmospheric changes influenced by cyclical temporal variations offer an abundance of harvestable thermal energy. However, the low conversion efficiency of a common thermoelectric device does not tend to be practical for microcircuit operations. One solution may lie in a novel electromechanical power transformer integrated with a thermodynamic based phase change material to create a temperature/pressure energy harvester. The performance of the proposed harvester will be investigated using both numerical and experimental techniques to offer insight into its functionality and power generation capabilities. The atmospheric energy harvester consists of a ethyl chloride filled mechanical bellows attached to an end plate and constrained by a stiff spring and four guide rails that allow translational motion. The electromechanical power transformer consists of a compound gear train driven by the bellows end plate, a ratchet-controlled coil spring to store energy, and a DC micro generator. Nonlinear mathematical models have been developed for this multi-domain dynamic system using fundamental engineering principles. The initial analyses predicted 9.6 mW electric power generation over a 24 hour period for ±1°C temperature variations about a nominal 22°C temperature. Transfer functions were identified from the lumped parameter models and the transient behavior of the coupled thermal-electromechanical system has been studied. A prototype experimental system was fabricated and laboratory tested to study the overall performance and validate the mathematical models for the integrated energy harvester system. The experimental results agree with the numerical analyses in behavioral characteristics. Further, the power generation capacity of 30 mW for a representative electrical resistance load and emulated rack input which correspond to 50 cyclic bidirectional temperature variations (~175 hours of field operation) validated the simulation models. This research study provides insight into the challenges of designing an electromechanical power transformer to complement an atmospheric energy harvester system. The mathematical models estimated the behavior and performance of the integrated harvester system and establishes a foundation for future optimization studies. The opportunity to power microelectronic devices in the milliwatt range for burst electric operation or with the use of supercapacitors/batteries enables global remote operation of smart appliances. This system can assist in reducing/eliminating the need for batteries and improving the operational life of a variety of autonomous equipment. Future research areas have been identified to improve the overall system capabilities and implement the harvester device for real-world applications.



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