On intentional introduction of stiffness nonlinearities for energy harvesting under white Gaussian excitations

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A significant body of the open literature on vibratory energy harvesting is currently focused on the concept of purposeful inclusion of stiffness nonlinearities for broadband transduction. When compared to their linear resonant counterparts, nonlinear energy harvesters have a wider steady-state frequency bandwidth, leading to the idea that they can be utilized to improve performance especially in random and non-stationary vibratory environments. To further investigate this common belief, this paper studies the response of vibratory energy harvesters to white Gaussian excitations. Both mono- and bi-stable piezoelectric Duffing-type harvesters are considered. The Fokker-Plank-Kolmogorov equation governing the evolution of the system's transition probability density function is formulated and used to generate the moment differential equations governing the response statistics. The moment equations are then closed using a fourth-order cumulant-neglect closure scheme and the relevant steady-state response statistics are obtained. It is demonstrated that the energy harvester's time constant ratio, i.e., the ratio between the nominal period of the mechanical subsystem and the time constant of the harvesting circuit, plays a critical role in characterizing the performance of nonlinear harvesters in a random environment. When the time constant ratio is large, stiffness-type nonlinearities have very little influence on the voltage response. In such a case, no matter how the potential function of the harvester is altered, it does not affect the average output power of the device. When the time constant ratio is small, the influence of the nonlinearity on the voltage output becomes more prevalent. In this case, a Duffing-type mono-stable harvester can never outperform its linear counterpart. A bi-stable harvester, on the other hand, can outperform a linear harvester only when it is designed with the proper potential energy function based on the known noise intensity of the excitation. Such conclusions hold for harvesters with nonlinearities appearing in the restoring force.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1063-1079
Number of pages17
JournalNonlinear Dynamics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Energy harvesting
  • Nonlinear
  • Random
  • White

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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