Can Flags Make Energy?

Jorge Silva Leon and a team of researchers at the University of Manchester recently published a paper in Applied Energy on a technology that generates energy on a much smaller scale than ususal—the microgrid. Powering the ever-expanding microgrid of mobile devices, sensors, robots, and small medical electronics is an important effort which, in Silva Leon’s eyes, complements grid-scale energy shifts. Silva Leon predicts that securing renewable energy sources for the emerging microgrid can reduce costs and maintenance both for the construction of the smart grid and for devices in remote areas.

Silva Leon was intrigued by the energy-capturing challenges presented by the United Kingdom’s mostly rainy forecasts. He and his team developed an inverted flag device that combines solar and wind technology with flexible solar panels and piezoelectric strips, which hold electric charges as a result of mechanical stresses like wind flapping through them. The flag captures enough energy to power small-scale devices under a variety of weather conditions.

Yale Geology and Geophysics professor and director of Energy Studies Michael Oristaglio found the device interesting and creative. He suggested that with the most profitable and efficient scale of solar energy still being researched, Silva Leon’s investigation may act as a stepping stone to further transformative and synergistic energy designs. “Sensors are going to be everywhere—they already are, to a certain extent. As they start to multiply, they’ll become a bigger drain on energy. To have local power on them is a great idea,” Oristaglio said.