Electrostrictive Polymers for Mechanical to Electrical Energy Harvesting

William G. Kaval


Research of electrostrictive polymers has generated new opportunities for harvesting energy from the surrounding environment and converting it into usable electrical energy. Piezoelectric ceramic-based devices have long been used in energy harvesting for converting mechanical motion to electrical energy. Nevertheless, those materials tend to be unsuitable for low-frequency mechanical excitations such as human movement. Since organic polymers are typically softer and more flexible, the translated electrical energy output is considerably higher under the same mechanical force. Currently, investigations in using electroactive polymers for energy harvesting, and mechanical-to-electrical energy conversion, are beginning to show potential for this application. In this paper we discuss methods of energy harvesting using membrane structures and various methods used to convert it into usable energy. Since polymers are typically used in capacitive energy-harvesting designs, the uses of polymer materials with large relative permittivities have demonstrated success for mechanical to electrical energy conversion. Further investigations will be used to identify suitable micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMs) structures given specific types of low-frequency mechanical excitations (10-100Hz).