Design of FerroElectric MEMS energy harvesting devices

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Publication Date



Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)

Source Publication

2016 IEEE National Aerospace and Electronics Conference (NAECON) and Ohio Innovation Summit (OIS)

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Waste heat is a widely available but little used source of power. Converting a thermal gradient into electricity is conventionally done using the Seebeck effect, but devices that use this effect are naturally inefficient. An alternate approach uses microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) to generate movement and time-varying temperature from a constant temperature gradient. Ferroelectric materials can harvest electricity from moving structures and temperature variations. This concept was realized using traditional silicon microprocessing techniques. A silicon on insulator (SOI) wafer was backside Deep Reactive Ion Etched (DRIE) to form a one mm2 by 7 micron thick silicon/silicon dioxide membrane. Lead zirconate titanate (PZT) was deposited on the membrane and acts as a ferroelectric material. Heating the bulk of the SOI substrate causes an increase in stress and upward deflection of the membrane. The membrane then enters into contact with a cold sink fixed above the substrate. Cooling of the membrane from contact with the cold sink causes actuation downwards of the membrane. The alternating heating and cooling of the PZT layer generates electricity from the pyroelectric effect. The actuation of the membrane generates stress on the PZT layer resulting in electricity from the piezoelectric effect.


2016 IEEE National Aerospace and Electronics Conference (NAECON) and Ohio Innovation Summit (OIS) (July 25-29, 2016). DOI.

Ronald A. Coutu, Jr. was affiliated with the Air Force Institute of Technology at the time of publication.