Ever larger quantities of sensors, microcontrollers and data transmitters are installed in buildings and machinery, supplying data and information that is key for a wide range of applications, such as healthcare, energy and transport to name but a few. Cost, weight and complexity issues of this fast growing network of copper wires are alleviated by battery-powered Wireless Sensor Nodes (WSN), which, nonetheless, suffer from the need for regular maintenance and battery replacement. Vibration energy harvesting (VEH) offers an attractive “fit and forget”, maintenance-free alternative power source for WSNs. Originally, VEH concepts have been based on linear mechanical resonators tuned at the primary system’s dominant vibration frequency. Harvesters have been designed to convert the kinetic energy of their resonant vibrations to electrical energy in order to power the installed electronics. Often though, uncertainty and diverse operational conditions drive the resonator outside the narrow resonant frequency band, leading to inefficient energy harvesting and inadequate power output.
Therefore, tuning the harvester to a desired mode becomes extremely sensitive to uncertainty and variations, posing one of the biggest challenges for VEH.
This project will develop vibration energy harvesters that exploit nonlinear dynamics to deliver broadband power output over a wide range of input frequencies. It involves a multidisciplinary approach to understand the response of a novel nonlinear harvesting device to varying forcing conditions. The advantages of intentionally employing nonlinearities to broaden the harvester’s efficient frequency band will be investigated via the development of theoretical models and appropriate experiments. The project is expected to significantly contribute to structural health monitoring and condition monitoring of systems with varying operation frequencies and/or interacting with irregular environmental loads.
Applications are invited from highly motivated candidates with an engineering or mathematical background, preferably in mechanical engineering. Applicants must hold a first class honours or 2:1 degree (or an equivalent qualification); demonstrated interest and/or experience in machine/structural dynamics and vibrations would be an advantage. Prospective applicants are also encouraged to contact Dr Panagiotis Alevras (firstname.lastname@example.org) for an informal enquiry, enclosing a CV.
Funding is potentially available on a competitive basis depending on the candidate’s qualifications and experience, covering tuition fees at Home/EU level and an annual tax-free stipend of about £14,500. Non-EU applicants are also welcome to apply, however only the tuition fees may be covered for non-EU students.