University of Hertfordshire

  • C. R. Bowen
  • H. A. Kim
  • P. M. Weaver
  • S. Dunn
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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)25-44
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Journal publication date1 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


This review provides a detailed overview of the energy harvesting technologies associated with piezoelectric materials along with the closely related sub-classes of pyroelectrics and ferroelectrics. These properties are, in many cases, present in the same material, providing the intriguing prospect of a material that can harvest energy from multiple sources including vibration, thermal fluctuations and light. Piezoelectric materials are initially discussed in the context of harvesting mechanical energy from vibrations using inertial energy harvesting, which relies on the resistance of a mass to acceleration, and kinematic energy harvesting which directly couples the energy harvester to the relative movement of different parts of a source. Issues related to mode of operation, loss mechanisms and using non-linearity to enhance the operating frequency range are described along with the potential materials that could be employed for harvesting vibrations at elevated temperatures. In addition to inorganic piezoelectric materials, compliant piezoelectric materials are also discussed. Piezoelectric energy harvesting devices are complex multi-physics systems requiring advanced methodologies to maximise their performance. The research effort to develop optimisation methods for complex piezoelectric energy harvesters is then reviewed. The use of ferroelectric or multi-ferroic materials to convert light into chemical or electrical energy is then described in applications where the internal electric field can prevent electron-hole recombination or enhance chemical reactions at the ferroelectric surface. Finally, pyroelectric harvesting generates power from temperature fluctuations and this review covers the modes of pyroelectric harvesting such as simple resistive loading and Olsen cycles. Nano-scale pyroelectric systems and novel micro-electro-mechanical-systems designed to increase the operating frequency are discussed.

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