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  Cornell University

MAE Publications and Papers

Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

New article: The Case for Energy Harvesting on Wildlife in Flight

Article:  Shafer, MW; MacCurdy, R; Shipley, JR; Winkler, D; Guglielmo, CG; Garcia, E; (2015)  “The Case for Energy Harvesting on Wildlife in Flight”, Smart Materials and Structures, 24 (2)


Abstract:  The confluence of advancements in microelectronic components and vibrational energy harvesting has opened the possibility of remote sensor units powered solely from the motion of their hosts. There are numerous applications of such systems, including the development of modern wildlife tracking/data-logging devices. These ‘bio-logging’ devices are typically massconstrained because they must be carried by an animal. Thus, they have historically traded scientific capability for operational longevity due to restrictions on battery size. Recently, the precipitous decrease in the power requirements of microelectronics has been accompanied by advancements in the area of piezoelectric vibrational energy harvesting. These energy harvesting devices are now capable of powering the type of microelectronic circuits used in bio-logging devices. In this paper we consider the feasibility of employing these vibrational energy harvesters on flying vertebrates for the purpose of powering a bio-logging device. We show that the excess energy available from birds and bats could be harvested without adversely affecting their overall energy budget. We then present acceleration measurements taken on flying birds in a flight tunnel to understand modulation of flapping frequency during steady flight.

Finally, we use a recently developed method of estimating the maximum power output from a piezoelectric energy harvester to determine the amount of power that could be practically harvested from a flying bird.

The results of this analysis show that the average power output of a piezoelectric energy harvester mounted to a bird or bat could produce more than enough power to run a biologging device. We compare the power harvesting capabilities to the energy requirements of an example system and conclude that vibrational energy harvesting on flying birds and bats is viable and warrants further study, including testing.

Funding Acknowledgement:  NSF [CMMI-1014891]; NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program [DGE0707428]

Funding Text:  This research was supported by NSF grant CMMI-1014891 and NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program grant DGE0707428. The authors would like to thank Wayne Bezner-Kerr for his help during the bird flight experiments.

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