The quest to develop broadband vibratory energy harvesters (VEHs) has recently motivated researchers to explore introducing nonlinearities into the harvester’s design. Some research efforts have demonstrated that this new class of nonlinear harvesters can outperform their traditional linear (resonant) counterparts; some others however concluded that nonlinearities can diminish the harvester’s transduction. Through this effort, we compare the performance of a nonlinear VEH operating in mono- and bi-stable potentials. With that objective, we consider an axially-loaded clamped-clamped piezoelectric beam which functions as an energy harvester in the mono-stable (pre-buckling) and bistable (post-buckling) configurations. For the purpose of fair performance comparison, the oscillation frequency around the stable equilibria of the harvester is tuned to equal values in both configurations. The harvester is then subjected to harmonic base excitations of different magnitudes and a slowly-varying frequency which spans a wide range around the tuned oscillation frequency. The output voltage measured across an arbitrarily chosen electric load is used as a relative performance measure. Both numerical and experimental results demonstrate that the shape of the potential function plays an essential role in conjunction with the magnitude of the base excitation to determine whether the bi-stable harvester can outperform the mono-stable one and for what range of frequencies.

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