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Self-powered water motion sensor
14 June 2017, Electronics Technology

A team of researchers from Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, and Korea University, has engineered a self-sustaining water motion sensor to analyse the dynamics of water motion, such as frequency and amplitude, using only the energy harvested from the water motion itself. Their research findings were reported in the journal Nano Science.

The oscillatory pressurisation of a water droplet between two electrodes generates electrical energy from the electrification of water by the static charge on the surfaces of the dielectric layers. Simultaneously, the variation of oscillating electrical energy generated provides information on the frequency and amplitude of the water motion. The accumulated energy and the analysed information are used to control an array of LEDs based on a 6-bit binary code.

A self-sustaining sensor platform is a core component for Internet-of-Things (IoTs) and smart-grid systems. The existing sensor platforms require energy to operate and display the detected information. Therefore monitoring, processing and displaying the minute changes of a targeted environmental element in a real-time fashion, without the use of external power sources or energy storages like batteries, has been challenging.

The research team solved this problem with the use of energy harvesting, an essential technology for permanent sensor platforms. The proposed sensor platform consists of a water-contact-based triboelectric nanogenerator, a self-sustaining water motion sensor integrated circuit on a test printed circuit board (PCB), and an LED array for displaying the detected frequencies and amplitudes of water motion. The circuits that store the harvested electrical energy and simultaneously analyse the signals are made using a CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) process.

Because the integrated one-platform concept requires no external power source and significantly reduces energy storage requirements, it can be applied to wireless or no-power sensor platform and grid-scale renewable energy plants, the research team notes.


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