Gizmos & Gadgets: MicroGen Develops Mechanical Energy Harvester

Imagine never having to change the battery in your watch or calculator. You no longer have to. Move over batteries, a new nano-based source of energy is about to enter the marketplace.

The device is called the BOLT (one can be seen next to the U.S. quarter in the image below). It is a product of the Cornell University NanoScale Science and Technology Facility. This summer it will go into production marketed by MicroGen Systems Inc., of Ithaca, New York, a company spun out from the university to continue to develop commercial applications.


MicroGen piezo-MEMs


The BOLT brand covers a range of piezoelectric vibrational energy harvesters, or PZEH for short. You can see some of the models on display in the picture below.

Each is a micro-electromechanical power generation system or MEMS, that harvests energy from vibration and can last twenty years or more before needing replacement. A PZEH can be mated to a rechargeable battery extended its life, or it can work with an adjoining ultra-capacitor, eliminating the need for any battery.

Where will the BOLT be used?

To power devices that currently rely on the coin-cell type batteries we see in all kinds of devices. Today we throw away 164 million of these flattened cylinders every year. Coin-cell batteries are used in watches, stacked together and used for transportable lighting, power handheld calculators, and are used in wireless sensors.  In particular it is expected that the BOLT will revolutionize the engineering of the latter and feeding the growth of the Internet of Things.


MicroGen BOLT


You can watch a demonstration of MicroGen’s piezoelectric BOLT on YouTube.

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...