The Development and Performance Evaluation of an Energy Harvesting Backpack
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In the past decade, society has become increasingly dependent on portable electronic devices that are almost exclusively powered by batteries. The performance and duration of operation of these devices are constrained by the limited energy per unit mass of batteries. Recent advances in the field of energy harvesting have led to the development of efficient and sustainable technologies that are capable of collecting mechanical energy from human motion, and producing the electrical power required to operate portable devices. This thesis focuses on the design and evaluation of a motion-based biomechanical energy harvester that collects energy from the user’s lower limbs. Two lower-limb energy-driven harvesting backpacks, a belt-driven prototype and a gear-driven prototype, were developed. Human treadmill walking testing showed that the belt-driven prototype was able to produce 19.3-12.2W of electrical power with a device efficiency of 34.4-48.4%. The belt-driven prototype had a low metabolic cost of carrying the device, approximately 18W, but had a large metabolic cost of producing electrical power, approximately 188W. This large metabolic cost of energy production is likely a consequence of the large mechanical power required to drive the device, namely to overcome the moment of inertia and the frictional loss of the device. Preliminary testing of the gear-driven prototype showed that the device was able to produce 7-11.2W of electrical power with a device efficiency of 58-78%. A theoretical model was developed that was able to predict the harvester0s electrical power output and the respective load on the user, from a given input motion wave-form. This model was able to predict the peak voltage and peak force with a percent difference of 2% ± 2% and 6.4% ± 4% respectively. Further reduction of the volume, weight, and number of parts of the energy harvester is essential in making the harvester a viable commercial product for powering portable devices.