Researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK have developed the first flags that can simultaneously generate electrical energy using wind and solar power.

The results of this study, which looked at how to develop sustainable energy solutions that can generate energy without much maintenance in a system called “deploy-and-forget”, were published in the academic journal Applied Energy.

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The technology was developed by using piezoelectric strips, which generate power through movement, and flexible photovoltaic cells to harness the power generated.

The researchers tested the energy-harvesting flags in different wind and environmental conditions and found they generate 3-4 mW of energy.

The flags will be able to power remote sensors and portable electronics which can monitor pollution as well as heat and sound levels.

Lead author of the study Jorge Silva-Leon said: “Under the action of the wind, the flags we built bend from side to side in a repetitive fashion, also known as Limit-Cycle Oscillations. This makes them perfectly suited for uniform power generation from the deformation of piezoelectric materials.

“Simultaneously, the solar panels bring a double benefit: they act as a destabilizing mass which triggers the onset of flapping motions at lower wind speeds, and of course are able to generate electricity from the ambient light.”

Co-author Dr Andrea Cioncolini added: “Wind and solar energies typically have intermittencies that tend to compensate each other. The sun does not usually shine during stormy conditions, whereas calm days with little wind are usually associated with shiny sun. This makes wind and solar energies particularly well suited for simultaneous harvesting, with a view at compensating their intermittency.”