Tip masses are used in cantilevered piezoelectric energy harvesters to shift device resonance towards the required frequency for harvesting and to improve the electric power generation. Tip masses are typically in the form of concentrated passive weights. The aim of this study is to assess the inclusion of solar panels as active tip masses on the dynamics and power generation performance of cantilevered PVDF (polyvinylidene fluoride)-based vibration energy harvesters. Four different harvester geometries with and without solar panels are realized using off-the-shelf components. Our experimental results show that the flexible solar panels considered in this study are capable of reducing resonance frequency by up to 14% and increasing the PVDF power generated by up to 54%. Two analytical models are developed to investigate this concept; employing both an equivalent concentrated tip mass to represent the case of flexible solar panels and a distributed tip mass to represent rigid panels. Good prediction agreement with experimental results is achieved with an average error in peak power of less than 5% for the cases considered. The models are also used to identify optimum tip mass configurations. For the flexible solar panel model, it is found that the highest PVDF power output is produced when the length of solar panels is two thirds of the total length. On the other hand, results from the rigid solar panel model show that the optimum length of solar panels increases with the relative tip mass ratio, approaching an asymptotic value of half of the total length as the relative tip mass ratio increases significantly.
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