Powering Devices with Vibration

Vibration in terms of simulation, for me at least, immediately makes me think of vehicles and larger structures: ride comfort in cars, the incredible forces caused by vibration that equipment on rockets see and rotating machinery. These are all obvious areas that our customers use simulation to help understand the effects of vibration. It seems that designers of much, much smaller devices are also very interested in vibration.

vibration power generation

Sensors that collect essential information on the operations of the millions of devices that comprise the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) have to be located where the devices are — often in remote, hard-to-access locations. Supplying power to run these sensors using wires or batteries that have to be changed regularly presents a major challenge. But now ReVibe Energy of Gothenburg, Sweden, is harnessing the energy of vibrations, which is usually wasted energy, to meet this challenge. ReVibe engineers use mechanical and electromagnetic simulations to design “energy harvesters” that generate electricity from the collected vibrations to power wireless sensors without batteries

Using software obtained through the ANSYS Startup Program, ReVibe engineers recently leveraged digital prototyping to design an energy harvester that powers a sensor mounted on railway track to monitor remote and off-grid switches. The vibrations of the railway switch as the train passed over it were monitored, and electromagnetic and mechanical simulations were used to design a harvester that was optimized for the frequency of these vibrations.

The engineers had two main design concerns: structural and electromagnetic. Because vibrations can cause mechanical damage in the forms of fatigue and fracture, performing mechanical simulations upfront in the design process can ensure better structural integrity and greater operating lifetimes for the energy harvesters in the long run. Similarly, because the harvesters contain magnets that oscillate on springs and interact with a wire coil, electromagnetic simulations help maximize the amount of electricity generated. A ReVibe engineer discusses the challenges of startups and some of the details of designing the harvester in a previous ANSYS blog post.

Flux density determined with ANSYS Maxwell

Using simulation early in the process, the railway switch project took ReVibe engineers only a fraction of the 16 weeks they normally need to produce a prototype. To learn more about how ReVibe is using simulation to save development time and costs, read the article in the latest issue of ANSYS Advantage.