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Lab on a Bird

Project Objective

This project focuses on expanding the current capabilities of avian tracking tags biologists use to study bird behaviors and movements. The researchers of the Laboratory for Intelligent Machine Systems focus on energy harvesting methods which will greatly extend the operational period of the tracking tag electronics.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Multi–source enegy harvesting schematic.

Project Description

While current avian tracking tag solutions utilize solar energy harvesting successfully, diurnal cycles limit the robustness of this method. To help increase the time during which the energy harvesting solutions provide energy to the tag electronics, piezoelectric energy harvesting from the bird's vibrations is being explored. Figures 2 shows the maximum theoretically harvestable power from various species of birds.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Theoretical maximum harvestable power for 169 North American birds based on the 4% maximum laden mass fraction. Some common species are noted for reference.

However, the amount of power which the piezoelectric energy harvester can actually provide to the tag electronics is limited by the device's specific energy. This value is related to the piezoelectric material efficiency in addition the device design and the excitation characteristics. Figure 3 shows the practically harvestable power based on bird mass and the transducer specific power.


Figure 3: Contour plot of practically harvestable power over a range of transducer specific powers.

Funding Agencies

  • NSF


  • Dr. David EricksonNanofluidic chemical detection for the purpose of onboard uric acid level detection.
  • Dr. David WinklerAvian tracking tag design and bird physiological integration.