Siemens has announced its scientists, like the one with the slightly crazed look below, have created the "Ambient Energy Harvester."
It’s a small machine that converts even modest amounts of movement into electricity and, apparently, does a very efficient job of it.
The technology uses a spring-mass system that is a few centimeters long. That system converts movement into several milliwatts of electricity.
What makes the Energy Harvester different than previous iterations of this approach is that it can handle a wide range of vibrations with different frequencies and amplitudes.
Before, similar systems only operated over a very limited range and the system had to be designed around a specific frequency bandwidth and amplitude.
The Energy Harvester’s flexibility and adaptability come from the fact that it is able to adjust the resonant frequency of the spring-mass system. It can actually adapt itself to match the motions and vibrations going on around it bv changing its own stiffness.
This provides a couple of key advantages. It is able to make power out of a wide range of motion - be it as tiny as little bumps in the road or as severe as a bone-jarring pothole - and it is not prone to breaking due to excessive shock.
Siemens notes that supply of the piezoelectric ceramics on which the system is based is plentiful. It says its next goal is to determine how to boost the device’s current output and reduce its assembly cost.