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Acoustic Energy

While some of us get irritated by the noise, Jeong Ho You finds an innovation from it. Jeong Ho You, a mechanical engineer at the Southern Methodist University, says “Acoustic energy is everywhere”.

With tiny resonating chambers, he wants to trap some of acoustic energy and convert it to low-amperage currents which can power small electronic devices.

Similar to Ho You, Mark Sheplak, a research fellow at the University of Florida has worked with acoustic energy. In fact he has built an acoustic energy harvester for a NASA jet engine research project. He says “A lot of people wrote it off because there are just a few applications where there’s enough sound to be useful”. The problem with this energy harvesting is that it is not very dense. To explain this he says the crowd sound in full roar at London’s Wembley stadium would provide only enough energy to fry an egg!

This is so true, but with miniature devices this small power will be enough to power electronic devices such as watch batteries, Bluetooth headsets, Mobile charges etc. which require less power.

Ho You says that his research focus will be different and small. “We can’t replace a whole cell phone battery, but maybe we could extend battery life” he said. Sheplak’s project to NASA was able to extract 30mW by mimicking a jet engine.

The team has used a Helmholtz resonator which has a cylinder that lets the noise in through a hole at one end and at the other end a small piezoelectric plate vibrates and produces currents. This device powered an experimental muffler which can adjust the signature of the sound of each stage of jet engine operation, the present mufflers are static working only in one frequency and one phase.

Ho You says “My idea is kind of different, I’m using a piezoelectric beam along the length of the cavity so that I can capture more energy.”

Innovations like these will help us to gain power from sound and when they are commercialized they are sure to have a significant market in this noisy world.

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