In the “most advanced study of its kind”, UK scientists have developed flags which generate electricity using wind and solar power.
Researchers at the University of Manchester created the flags, which combine the use of photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy and piezoelectric strips to generate energy from the movement caused by wind, in the first research project to harvest wind and solar energy simultaneously. The flags can generate enough power to run remote sensors or small portable electronics, such as sound level monitors and pollution detectors.
The study’s lead author Jorge Silva-Leon, from Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering, said: “Under the action of the wind, the flags we built bend from side to side in a repetitive fashion, also known as Limit-Cycle Oscillations. This makes them perfectly suited for uniform power generation from the deformation of piezoelectric materials. Simultaneously, the solar panels bring a double benefit: they act as a destabilizing mass which triggers the onset of flapping motions at lower wind speeds, and of course are able to generate electricity from the ambient light.”
The research team tracked the success of their project using fast video imaging and object tracking in tandem with advanced data analysis. Dr Mostafa Nabawy, a co-author of the study, said: “Our piezo/solar inverted flags were capable of generating sufficient power for a range of low power sensors and electronics that operate in the micro-Watt to milli-Watt power range within a number of potential practical applications in avionics, land and sea remote locations, and smart cities. We hope to develop the concept further in order to support more power-demanding applications such as an eco-energy generating charging-station for mobile devices.”
The primary purpose of the study was to devise cheap, sustainable renewable energy solutions under the “deploy-and-forget” model, whereby energy harvesting technologies can be implemented and then left to work with minimal supervision or maintenance. The University of Manchester has adopted energy as one of its main research priorities.