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Thin Film Multi-source Energy Harvester for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles



OBJECTIVE: Demonstrate a lightweight multi-source energy harvester in a single architecture in thin film form to achieve power densities on the order of 10 mW/cm2 to power applications on an aviation platform such as an unmanned aerial vehicle. 

DESCRIPTION: Energy harvesting field has grown significantly over the past decade and currently there are many demonstrations available. Traditionally, energy harvesting structures have been designed to capture one source of energy at a given time. For example – vibration energy harvesters targeting mechanical energy source, solar cells targeting light, electromagnetic harvesters targeting magnetic fields, etc. This limits the total energy that can be captured from environment on aviation platforms and thereby creates uncertainty in powering desired applications. Integration of multiple different harvesting schemes using traditional approaches would lead to a bulky system that will be impractical for most platforms. Rather a new approach is required towards development of a multi-source energy harvester where a single architecture is able to couple with multiple inputs such as light, electromagnetic field, thermal gradient and vibrations. Such a multi-source harvester in thin film form would provide a reliable power source that meets weight and size requirements for unmanned aerial vehicles. Recent demonstrations of composite structures based upon piezoelectric – magnetic metallic alloy materials have shown the ability to generate significant power density under applied mechanical and magnetic fields. , For example - self-biased magnetoelectric coefficients on the order of 3 V/cm·Oe has been obtained from the piezoelectric films deposited on nickel alloys. In parallel, there have been successful demonstrations of dye-sensitized solar cells fabricated on metallic alloys exhibiting high efficiencies at cell and module level. , Combination of piezoelectric film and nickel has also been shown to provide pyroelectric response indicating the possibility to capture thermal cycles. These demonstrations open the opportunity to conceive of a thin film layered architecture that is responsive to multiple inputs. The goal of this program is to design, model, fabricate and characterize ~25 mm x 25 mm multi-source energy harvester tile and demonstrate its scalability for target vehicles. The goal of this program is to design, model, fabricate and characterize ~1 cm2 multi-source energy harvester. 

PHASE I: Identify and model thin film composite structure that can provide electrical power output in response to mechanical, magnetic, thermal and light inputs; (b) Using numerical simulations and experiments, demonstrate the ability of this architecture to achieve power densities on the order of 10 mW/cm2 in response to multiple simultaneous inputs expected to be available on the unmanned aerial vehicle platform; (c) Develop complete component-level mathematical model that combines all the parameters representing materials, vibration modes, band alignment, thermal transport, and electrical output; (d) Demonstrate feasibility of the newly designed multi-source energy harvester concept on unmanned aerial vehicle platform. 

PHASE II: (i) Fabricate and package the composite component modeled in Phase I using manufacturing methods that leads towards commercial development of harvesters. (ii) Characterize the electrical output in response to mechanical (frequency – 10 to 100Hz, acceleration – 0.05 to 0.2g), magnetic (fields ranging from 0.1 to 5 Oe), thermal (temperature gradients in the range of 10 to 40 degree Celsius), and light (intensity varying from 0.5 to 1 sun) inputs. (iii) Demonstrate self-powered sensor node operation on the unmanned aerial vehicle platform using the multi-source harvester tiles as power supply (iv) Conduct field tests to investigate the reliability of packaged multi-source harvester to external factors such as moisture, UV radiation, humidity, and temperature. 

PHASE III: Develop potential transition partners including Army, other DoD agencies, and U.S. industrial sector for transitioning the developed power source. Fabricate production quantity of packaged multi-source energy harvesters and conduct testing on variety of aviation relevant platforms. 


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KEYWORDS: Drones, Aircraft, Condition Based Maintenance 


Linda Taylor 

(256) 876-2883 

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