Energy harvesting from low frequency cyclic motion is possible in a variety of applications, but generating power with piezoelectric stacks at low, off-resonance frequencies is challenging. In this study, Compliant Layer Adaptive Composite Stacks (CLACS) were investigated as a toughened piezoelectric generator to increase efficiency at low frequencies and match the compliance of many commercial devices.

CLACS were manufactured with PZT discs, interdigitated epoxy layers of varying thicknesses, and encapsulated in epoxy. Energy production of each CLACS type as a function of compliant layer thickness was characterized. Power amplification of CLACS was modeled assuming discs remain planar, volume of epoxy was conserved, and total epoxy deformations were small. Shear lag theory demonstrated increases in positive in-plane strains induced by external through-thickness compression. This amplified sensitivity of the entire stack to through-thickness compressions, substantially increases power generation capability.

Experimental data showed that increases in compliant layer thickness resulted in increased power generation in all loading conditions. The shear lag structural mechanics model showed good correlation with theoretical predictions, assuming small deformation of the compliant layer. In addition to reducing composite stiffness, the CLACS generated 61% more power than conventional stack actuators with the same PZT volume via lateral strain amplification effects.

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