A technique to generate electricity from human walking on a street

The global climate is changing, posing increasingly serious risks to ecosystems, human health, and the economy. Although the COVID-19 pandemic helped us make the changes needed to tackle the environmental crisis and meet the climate targets, it (keeping people locked) is not a particularly good way of doing so. Scientists around the world are trying to find cleaners ways of producing energy.

In this effort, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi (IIT Mandi) have developed a way to generate electricity by simply walking on the road. They have proposed a novel poling direction arrangement theoretically in the piezoelectric materials to enhance the power output of piezoelectric materials – materials that interconvert mechanical energy and electrical energy – when subjected to stress.

Such materials can, for example, be used in floor tiles to generate electrical energy from human walking or on roads, where the weight from the vehicles can power road lights and signals. Putting the material in a busy place could get to generate more energy. This might sound impressive in theory, but the technique is not very impactful as the electrical energy produced by these materials is very low, limiting their applications in real-life situations.

“We have developed a technique known as “graded poling” to enhance the power output of piezoelectric materials by more than 100 times”, says Dr. Rahul Vaish, one of the lead researchers of the work published in the journal Engineering Reports. Researchers have used several techniques to make use of different mechanical stresses such as bending, compressive and tensile stresses at the top and bottom of the piezoelectric cantilever beams and shear stresses in the mid-section to significantly improve the electrical output.

The enormous improvements possible through the graded poling technique offer researchers an incentive to develop actual piezoelectric designs that implement the graded poling technique so that the applications can be realized.

The promise of a generation of 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.

The researchers are extending their work further for a more accurate prediction of the effects of the proposed poling technique on the material’s mechanical properties, which will offer better insights into harnessing the advantages of this technique in real-life applications.

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