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Harvesting Vibrations

July 31, 2007

New devices generate power from environmental vibrations.


Stealing energy from vibrations. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’]

Forty years ago, good vibrations were giving the Beach Boys excitations. Now, Steve Beeby of the University of Southampton in England is using vibrations to generate real electricity. He’s developed devices as small as a sugar cube that you stick on any vibrating surface. The vibrations jiggle a few strategically placed magnets, which surround a copper coil.

STEVE BEEBY (University of Southampton):
So the coil’s stationary and the magnets are moving. And that way you build up an electromotive force in the coil, which is basically a voltage.

It’s a low voltage, but Beeby says it’s enough to run small wireless sensors that monitor the structural integrity of machines and bridges. And in theory, it could even power a battery-free pacemaker just from the pulse of a patient’s heartbeat. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.