With the advancing trend towards lighter and faster rail transport, there is an increasing interest in integrating composite and advanced multifunctional materials in order to infuse smart sensing and monitoring, energy harvesting and wireless capabilities within the otherwise purely mechanical rail structures and the infrastructure. This paper presents a holistic multiphysics numerical study, across both mechanical and electrical domains, that describes an innovative technique of harvesting energy from a piezoelectric micro fiber composites (MFC) built-in composite rail chassis structure. Representative environmental vibration data measured from a rail cabin have been critically leveraged here to help predict the actual vibratory and power output behaviour under service. Time domain mean stress distribution data from the Finite Element simulation were used to predict the raw AC voltage output of the MFCs. Conditioned power output was then calculated using circuit simulation of several state-of-the-art power conditioning circuits. A peak instantaneous rectified power of 181.9 mW was obtained when eight-stage Synchronised Switch Harvesting Capacitors (SSHC) from eight embedded MFCs were located. The results showed that the harvested energy could be sufficient to sustain a self-powered structural health monitoring system with wireless communication capabilities. This study serves as a theoretical foundation of scavenging for vibrational power from the ambient state in a rail environment as well as to pointing to design principles to develop regenerative and power neutral smart vehicles.
Bibliographical noteThis is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited
- Circuit design and optimization
- Finite element analysis
- Lightweight rail vehicle
- Micro fiber composite
- Power conditioning circuit
- Vibration energy harvesting