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02 December 2011

American University of Sharjah Students develop device that generates power from mechanical energy

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Sharjah, UAE: Students at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) have developed an award winning power generation system using piezoelectric technology to produce sustainable electricity by harnessing mechanical energy, acoustic noise and ultrasonic waves.

By capturing mechanical energy, noise and sound vibrations from situations where noise would otherwise be wasted, the students propose to capture this energy and convert it to electricity by using piezoelectric technology.

Piezoelectric technology is a specific kind of material that generates voltage upon the application of pressure from movement or vibrations. The piezoelectric compound is harnessed by extracting material from natural properties like silicone from sand or using crystal properties mixed with components like titanium to capture vibrations produced from movement.

“People are developing solar power, wind and geothermal energy and biofuels, so we thought why not do something unique in an area nobody is working on,” said Arsalan Mohammad, undergraduate electric engineering student at AUS. “It was worth looking into places where a lot of mechanical energy or noise is wasted like footsteps on a pavement or noise in football stadiums.”

He added that mechanical vibrations through the road could also be captured as well as ultrasonic sound from places such as large aquariums. Animals produce a lot of ultrasonic sounds which humans cannot hear but can be tapped.

Capturing energy

A way to harness energy from cars would be to place piezoelectric devices in speed bumps on the roads.

“Whenever a car goes over the bump it generates vibrations and from that vibration we store the energy,” Dr Yousuf Al Assaf, Dean of the Engineering College at AUS.

“Once the energy accumulates you could light the street with it because the movement is there anyway so this way you save energy as well as the electric grid.”

Another application of the piezoelectric technology, Al Assaf said, could be to place a small device in people’s shoes to capture the energy they create while walking. “Walking generates energy so if it’s stored, you can use it to charge a small electric device like a mobile phone, because you are moving anyway.”

Mohammad along with the rest of his team: Mohammad Ajmal, Danial Ahmad and Mohammad Ateeq were awarded by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) for their innovation. IET is a globally recognised professional society for the engineering and technology community.

As youth growing up in the 21st century the students were motivated by the global drive to develop alternative forms of renewable and sustainable energy. “If we as youth don’t take the steps right now to contribute to the development of alternative energy we would be limiting ourselves,” said Mohammad. “Now is the time for youth to step up and put forth their innovative ideas because we are currently in the development stage of this field so we’ve got options.”

Team member, Ajmal believes that the students’ applications for their power generation device could also be used to enhance the quality of life for people living in poverty.

Piezoelectric technology

Piezoelectric technology is a specific kind of material that generates voltage upon the application of pressure from movement or vibrations. Crystals which acquire a charge when compressed, twisted or distorted are said to be piezoelectric. When you apply pressure on certain crystalline materials like quartz, Rochelle salt and certain ceramics you get a charge separation within the crystal and a voltage across the crystal that is sometimes extremely high.

For example, in a lighter, the popping noise you hear is a little spring-loaded hammer hitting a crystal and generating thousands of volts across the faces of the crystal. This electrical potential can be harnessed in various ways.

(Courtesy: EdArabia)

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