R. L. Harne, M. E. Schoemaker, and K. W. Wang – Proc. SPIE Active and Passive Smart Structures and Integrated Systems, March 2014
The heaving of ocean waves is a largely untapped, renewable kinetic energy resource. Conversion of this energy into electrical power could integrate with solar technologies to provide for round-the-clock, portable, and mobile energy supplies usable in a wide variety of marine environments. However, the direct drive conversion methodology of grid integrated wave energy converters does not efficiently scale down to smaller, portable architectures. This research develops an alternative power conversion approach to harness the extraordinarily large heaving displacements and long oscillation periods as an excitation source for an extendible vibration energy harvesting chain. Building upon related research findings and engineering insights, the proposed system joins together a series of dynamic cells through bistable interfaces. Individual impulse events are generated as the inertial mass of each cell is pulled across a region of negative stiffness to induce local snap through dynamics; the oscillating magnetic inertial mass then generates current in a coil which is connected to energy harvesting circuitry. It is shown that linking the cells into a chain transmits impulses through the system leading to cascades of vibration and enhancement of electrical energy conversion from each impulse event. This paper describes the development of the multistable chain and ways in which realistic design challenges were addressed. Numerical modeling and corresponding experiments demonstrate the response of the chain due to slow and large amplitude input motion. Lastly, experimental studies give evidence that energy conversion efficiency of the chain for wave energy conversion is much higher than using an equal number of cells without connections.