Bioinspired model of mechanical energy harvesting based on flexoelectric membranes
Membrane flexoelectricity is an electromechanical coupling process that describes membrane electrical polarization due to bending and membrane bending under electric fields. In this paper we propose, formulate, and characterize a mechanical energy harvesting system consisting of a deformable soft flexoelectric thin membrane subjected to harmonic forcing from contacting bulk fluids. The key elements of the energy harvester are formulated and characterized, including (i) the mechanical-to-electrical energy conversion efficiency, (ii) the electromechanical shape equation connecting fluid forces with membrane curvature and electric displacement, and (iii) the electric power generation and efficiency. The energy conversion efficiency is cast as the ratio of flexoelectric coupling to the product of electric and bending elasticity. The device is described by a second-order curvature dynamics coupled to the electric displacement equation and as such results in mechanical power absorption with a resonant peak whose amplitude decreases with bending viscosity. The electric power generation is proportional to the conversion factor and the power efficiency decreases with frequency. Under high bending viscosity, the power efficiency increases with the conversion factor and under low viscosities it decreases with the conversion factor. The theoretical results presented contribute to the ongoing experimental efforts to develop mechanical energy harvesting from fluid flow energy through solid-fluid interactions and electromechanical transduction.