Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi, have developed a technique to generate electricity by walking on streets.
The technology makes use of piezoelectric materials. The material is known to interconvert mechanical energy and electrical energy.
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The technique proposed by the IIT researchers aims to enhance the power output of piezoelectric materials that can be used in floor tiles to generate electricity when people walk on them, or on roads when the weight of vehicles plying over it will help power road lights and signals.
The research paper has been co-authored by research scholars Raj Kiran and Sourav Sharma, along with Anuruddh Kumar, an IIT Mandi alumnus currently working at North Korea’s Hanyang University, under the supervision of associate professors Rajeev Kumar and Rahul Vaish.
The results have been published in the journal Engineering Reports.
“Piezoelectric materials can generate electrical energy when a force is applied on them, and are thus extremely useful,” Kumar explained. “Such materials can, for example, be used in floor tiles to generate electrical energy from walking or on roads where the weight from the vehicles can power road lights and signals. However, currently, the electrical energy produced by these materials is very low, which limits their applications in real life situations.”
Vaish added: “We have developed a technique known as graded poling to enhance the power output of piezoelectric materials by more than 100 times.”
The researchers have used numerical techniques to utilise multiple mechanical stresses – bending, compressive and tensile stresses at the top and bottom of the piezoelectric cantilever beams and shear stresses in the mid-section – in order to significantly improve the electrical output.
The promise of generating higher amounts of electrical energy from mechanical movement can potentially enable applications in which smart devices can be powered simply by human motion. Other applications could include generating power from the soles of footwear equipped with these materials.