Scientists at the University of Southampton have developed a tiny generator that is powered by vibrations. The generator was designed for use in applications where replacing batteries would be very difficult. At the heart of the tiny device, which is less than a cubic centimeter in size, are several magnets on a cantilever. When vibrations cause the magnets to wobble a small amount of power, on the scale of microwatts, is generated. While similar devices exist, the inventors say that their device is up to 10 times more efficient.
"Although the generator produces only microwatts this was more than enough to power sensors attached to machines in manufacturing plants, said Dr Steve Beeby, from the University of Southampton, who led development of the device.
"The big advantage of wireless sensor systems is that by removing wires and batteries, there is the potential for embedding sensors in previously inaccessible locations," he said.
Using the tiny generator also made it possible to use larger numbers of sensors because there was no longer the need to visit them to replace or recharge batteries, said Dr Beeby."
The scientists originally developed the generator to power sensors inside air compressors but eventually it could be adapted for use in other applications like pace makers. The beating of a human heart would produce enough vibrations for the tiny generator to power a pacemaker.