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Flexible flags collect solar and wind energy

March 11th, 2019 / By: / EcoNote

A team at the University of Manchester has developed flags that collect wind and solar energy.  Flexible photovoltaics do their job capturing the sun’s energy while piezoelectric strips allow the flag to generate power through movement. The University of Manchester study is said to be the first of its kind to harvest wind and solar energies simultaneously using inverted flags, an article in Off Grid Energy Independence reported.

Flexibility is the key, noted the lead author of the study, Jorge Silva-Leon, Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering. “Under the action of the wind, the flags we built bend from side to side in a repetitive fashion, also known as limit-cycle oscillations. This makes them perfectly suited for uniform power generation from the deformation of piezoelectric materials. Simultaneously, the solar panels bring a double benefit: they act as a destabilizing mass which triggers the onset of flapping motions at lower wind speeds, and of course are able to generate electricity from the ambient light.”

The energy harvesting flags are capable of powering small-scale portable electronics and remote sensors that can monitor heat, pollution and sound levels, for example. The team hopes to further the concept to support applications such as energy generating charging stations for mobile devices.

The researchers’ intent was to develop inexpensive and sustainable energy harvesting methods that require little maintenance, employing the “deploy and forget” strategy. Applications are envisioned for avionics, remote locations on land and sea, and smart cities.

The team’s research is published in Applied Energy.