Control of Vibratory Energy Harvesters in the Presence of Nonlinearities and Power-Flow Constraints

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Scruggs, Jeffrey T
Gavin, Henri P

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Over the past decade, a significant amount of research activity has been devoted to developing electromechanical systems that can convert ambient mechanical vibrations into usable electric power. Such systems, referred to as vibratory energy harvesters, have a number of useful of applications, ranging in scale from self-powered wireless sensors for structural health monitoring in bridges and buildings to energy harvesting from ocean waves. One of the most challenging aspects of this technology concerns the efficient extraction and transmission of power from transducer to storage. Maximizing the rate of power extraction from vibratory energy harvesters is further complicated by the stochastic nature of the disturbance. The primary purpose of this dissertation is to develop feedback control algorithms which optimize the average power generated from stochastically-excited vibratory energy harvesters.

This dissertation will illustrate the performance of various controllers using two vibratory energy harvesting systems: an electromagnetic transducer embedded within a flexible structure, and a piezoelectric bimorph cantilever beam. Compared with piezoelectric systems, large-scale electromagnetic systems have received much less attention in the literature despite their ability to generate power at the watt--kilowatt scale. Motivated by this observation, the first part of this dissertation focuses on developing an experimentally validated predictive model of an actively controlled electromagnetic transducer. Following this experimental analysis, linear-quadratic-Gaussian control theory is used to compute unconstrained state feedback controllers for two ideal vibratory energy harvesting systems. This theory is then augmented to account for competing objectives, nonlinearities in the harvester dynamics, and non-quadratic transmission loss models in the electronics.

In many vibratory energy harvesting applications, employing a bi-directional power electronic drive to actively control the harvester is infeasible due to the high levels of parasitic power required to operate the drive. For the case where a single-directional drive is used, a constraint on the directionality of power-flow is imposed on the system, which necessitates the use of nonlinear feedback. As such, a sub-optimal controller for power-flow-constrained vibratory energy harvesters is presented, which is analytically guaranteed to outperform the optimal static admittance controller. Finally, the last section of this dissertation explores a numerical approach to compute optimal discretized control manifolds for systems with power-flow constraints. Unlike the sub-optimal nonlinear controller, the numerical controller satisfies the necessary conditions for optimality by solving the stochastic Hamilton-Jacobi equation.





Cassidy, Ian Lerner (2012). Control of Vibratory Energy Harvesters in the Presence of Nonlinearities and Power-Flow Constraints. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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