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WSN powered by vibration energy harvesters

24 July 2013 News

At the recent Sensors Expo and Conference, MicroGen Systems demonstrated its vibration energy harvesting BOLT Power Cells powering a live wireless sensor network (WSN) using Linear Technology’s Dust Networks LTC5800-IPM SmartMesh IP mote-on-chip. The Linear mote was powered by MicroGen’s piezoelectric micro-electromechanical systems (piezo-MEMS) vibrational energy harvester or micro-power generator (MPG) technology.

The Linear WSN consisted of four motes, and their WSN software for efficient power managed communication was used. The self-powered motes were enabled by electronic shakers set at typical industrial vibration levels of 120 Hz and acceleration G-level of 0,2 G. The demo had motes communicating with one another from up to 30 metres away.

Inside MicroGen’s BOLT Power Cell is a small semiconductor MEMS chip fabricated using similar techniques as the computer chip industry. This chip is a ~1,0 cm² piezo-MEMS MPG containing one end-mass loaded micro-cantilever containing a piezoelectric thin film.

As the MPG’s cantilever bends up and down due to the external vibrational force, it produces alternating current (AC) electricity. At resonance the AC power output is maximised, where it is roughly 100 μW at 120 Hz and ≥0,1 G, and on the order of 900 μW at 600 Hz and ≥0,5 g.

The AC electricity is efficiently converted to direct current (DC) using Linear Technology’s LTC3588-1 piezoelectric energy harvesting AC to DC converter. After the energy is scavenged it is temporarily stored on a 300 μF capacitor. The output of the power cell ranges from 25 to 500 μW at 3,3 V d.c., depending upon configuration and frequency.

The aim of the demonstration was to show this energy harvesting technology can be used to eliminate or extend the lifetime of primary cells or rechargeable batteries in WSN industrial and building applications, where the labour to frequently change batteries is cost prohibitive for a WSN to be installed.





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