Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created thin, flexible electronic devices that efficiently harvest the mechanical energy from natural motions of the human body. In addition to advances in materials processing to enable fabrication of these thin film devices, accurate analytical models were developed to predict electrical output of mechanical energy harvesting devices as a function of key design parameters and materials properties.

Using designs and materials processing methods developed with DOE support, thin films of lead zirconate titanate (PZT) were integrated onto flexible plastic (polyimide) substrates along with electronic circuitry and millimeter-scale batteries to produce devices capable of generating and storing electrical energy. When implanted on a moving surface such as a heart muscle, the device produced sufficient power for possible use with biomedical devices such as cardiac pacemakers and biometric sensors.

The researchers say that these novel devices could have multiple applications including meeting the power requirements for biomedical electronic implants and wearable health/fitness sensors.