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The Future of Eco-Friendly Energy with Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting

Have you ever walked along a street where the streetlights lit up only in the area around you? These streetlights are being installed in many cities these days, so soon you’ll have this experience, if you haven’t already. One of the best examples of this is piezoelectric energy harvesting (PEH), which uses the energy coming from a pedestrian’s footsteps pressing on a special board to light up the area around them. This technique is enabled by piezoelectric boards and is suited for crowded areas.

This is an example to show energy in a new way by converting mechanical energy to an endless source of electric power. Today, let’s look at a few cases of piezoelectric energy and its prospects followed by the future of eco-friendly energy projects.

Piezoelectric Energy Turning on Streetlamps with Energy from Pedestrians

Piezoelectric energy adopts a method which accumulates the mechanical energy from people’s pressure on the piezoelectric board during the day in order to light up the street at night. This eco-friendly energy source is showing us a new possibility of effective energy utilization. You can check out the specific advantages of piezoelectric energy through the clip below.

<Piezoelectric Energy harvesting laying piezoelectric element on a road>

Piezoelectric energy converts the pressure from cars passing by electric energy through the piezoelectric element under the street. This way, the street can be free of carbon dioxide. It’s also useful because all streetlights on highway and traffic lights can run on this semi-permanent source of energy. As piezoelectric technology uses vibrations to attain energy, even the slightest vibration can be stored as electricity. This is quite different from conventional eco-friendly energy projects such as solar plants or wind power generators.

Cases of Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting

Piezoelectric harvesting is the technology that collects mechanical energy using a piezoelectric element. Electricity is created through the quantum characteristics the element has, and the energy comes from this electric field. Recently, studies are being undertaken to utilize energy more effectively such as harvesting technology which turns mechanical piezoelectric energy into electricity.

This method includes solar power generation, piezoelectric generation, generation techniques using mechanical movement and electromagnetic phenomena, and thermoelectric generation. How then, is piezoelectric harvesting applied in Korea and other countries? Let’s take a look at a few cases.

Pavegen lighting up the slums in Brazil

Pavegen, a British energy company, recently built a special soccer field in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This soccer field was designed to light up the slums by converting kinetic energy from the kids running on the field. 200 tiles on the field and solar panels around the field collect energy during the day, and use the energy to power 6 LED lights at night.

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Pavegen soccer field using piezoelectric harvesting technology (Source: pavegen.com)

A soccer field running off of people’s kinetic energy and harvesting technology using piezoelectric elements is making small but meaningful changes around the globe. Laurence Kemball Cook, CEO of Pavegen, said “I hope to see a change in people’s perception of energy”. As you see, Pavegen is providing a chance for us to experience science in our daily lives by adding social meaning to the energy business. Using the biggest strength of piezoelectric harvesting, which can be chosen and applied in a suitable method for the given natural environment, it is successfully expanding its territory in the field.

Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials develops world’s first artificial basilar membrane

Korea is also making new attempts in the field. Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM) recently developed an artificial basilar membrane not using power which is designed like that of human’s. This is the world’s first device to materialize the hearing function by duplicating the cochlea in our ears. This groundbreaking development also included piezoelectric harvesting in the artificial basilar membrane which stimulates the auditory nerves. The trapezoid shaped nano-piezoelectric element which looks like a xylophone separates the frequency through the basilar membrane. This signal is converted into an electric signal which stimulates the auditory nerves so the user can hear the sound through it.

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The keymap of artificial cochlea from KIMM (Source: http://scienceon.hani.co.kr)

The integration of biomimetics and the nano-piezoelectric element is creating a new world for the hearing-impaired who are suffering with external artificial cochlea. The greatest thing about this new technology is that it can be implanted inside the ear so the user doesn’t have to show their hearing disability. It also utilizes the energy created by the device itself, so the battery can last for a long time. The piezoelectric element, as we see, is contributing to society through its medical uses. This piezoelectric technology applied to the artificial cochlea can also be used in other various areas such as energy harvesting elements, underwater sensors, and special sound spectrographs and can finally become a new field of technological competition.

Changing the World with Top-Notch Green IT

Green IT is one of the world’s most recognized energy projects for the 21st century. These attempts to accomplish sustainable development are being noticed in many different fields. LG CNS Green IT, which is creating a new paradigm in the energy category, is drawing attention in the global IT market with their original technologies materializing their own operation system.

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LG CNS Global Cloud Data Center in Busan (Source: LG CNS blog)

The best example of an LG CNS Green solution is the Global Cloud Data Center in Busan, Korea (hereafter Busan Center), with its original solution for sustainable environmental management. Reflecting the age of ‘smart’ energy use we’re living in, it’s playing a crucial role in preserving nature at a minimal cost.

The air-drift in the chimney for heat emission from the server and the Built-up Outside Air Cooling System at Busan Center shows LG CNS’s original technologies which try to enhance energy efficiency from the beginning of the data center project. These distinguish Busan Center from other data center buildings as it has applied eco-friendly technology throughout its system. With such a great building, they recently got certified as the highest rating (A+++) from the Korea Green Data Center Certification. These eco-friendly solutions were also recognized globally in May of 2014, by winning the world’s most prestigious award for data centers at the Brill Awards, a first for a Korean company.

LG CNS’s effort to build the best data center in the world and to find the best technology for it gives us a glimpse into the future Korean energy businesses hold. Many Korean energy businesses that are proving their potential in the global market with their original technologies and creativity are creating value under the motto of an eco-friendly world.

The Future of Piezoelectric Harvesting

There are two conditions to be satisfied in order to commercialize piezoelectric harvesting. One is that their energy efficiency should improve, and the other is that their prices must go down. The higher piezoelectric element’s efficiency gets, the faster and bigger the conversion becomes. Once the technology to improve efficiency at a lower cost is developed, the market will grow much faster. Experts expect the piezoelectric harvesting market to take 28.8% of the entire energy harvesting market soon, as the number of piezoelectric harvesting related projects is increasing rapidly. Piezoelectric harvesting will be considered the next generation energy source as soon as these issues are taken care of.

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Piezoelectric harvesting infographic (Source: makezine.com)

Today, we learned about cases in Korea and around the globe related to piezoelectric harvesting as well as their future prospects. The key to 21st century IT is to show the notion of green IT which strives to solve environmental problems while enhancing technology at the same time. The eco-friendly energy projects such as piezoelectric harvesting are being developed consistently based on the fact that they don’t create toxic waste and that they can be applied to smaller businesses. Other than the examples I shared in this posting, there are diverse attempts to advance the green IT market while solving the energy crisis and preventing possible environmental disasters.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the mechanism of piezoelectric harvesting and the future of the field of eco-friendly energy. Though it might sound unfamiliar, energy harvesting is something we can easily find around us. It is important to remember that this eco-friendly technology isn’t just an inevitable result of the advancement of IT, but proof of our efforts to find a way to coexist with nature.

There are still many environmental issues to solve and countless methods and solutions to be developed in order to do so. I look forward to seeing more green IT that combines nature and technology with insight toward the future rather than simply going for convenience at the moment.

Written by Ji-in Jung, University reporter for LG CNS

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  • Raj Nath

    I appreciate your work on Blockchain. It’s such a wonderful read on Blockchain.Keep sharing stuffs like this. I am also educating people on similar technologies so if you are interested to know more you can watch this:-
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwDZhlnr9ho

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