Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Changing temperature powers sensors in hard-to-reach places

04.09.2014

A centuries-old clock built for a king is the inspiration for a group of computer scientists and electrical engineers who hope to harvest power from the air.

The clock, powered by changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure, was invented in the early 17th century by a Dutch builder. Three centuries later, Swiss engineer Jean Leon Reutter built on that idea and created the Atmos mechanical clock that can run for years without needing to be wound manually.

Now, University of Washington researchers have taken inspiration from the clock’s design and created a power harvester that uses natural fluctuations in temperature and pressure as its power source. The device harvests energy in any location where these temperature changes naturally occur, powering sensors that can check for water leaks or structural deficiencies in hard-to-reach places and alerting users by sending out a wireless signal.

“Pressure changes and temperature fluctuations happen around us all the time in the environment, which could provide another source of energy for certain applications,” said Shwetak Patel, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering.

The UW team will present its research at the Association for Computing Machinery’s International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing this month in Seattle.

The system works like this: A metal bellows about the size of a cantaloupe is filled with a temperature-sensitive gas. When the gas heats and cools in response to the outside air temperature, it expands and contracts, causing the bellows to do the same. Small, cantilever motion harvesters are placed on the bellows and convert this kinetic energy into electrical energy. This powers sensors that also are placed on the bellows, and data collected by the sensors is sent wirelessly to a receiver.

A number of battery-free technologies exist that are powered by solar and ambient radio frequency waves. The researchers say this technology would be useful in places where sun and radio waves can’t always penetrate, such as inside walls or bridges and below ground where there might be at least small temperature fluctuations.

For instance, the device could be placed in an attic or inside a wall, and sensors would be tuned to check for water leaks. Similarly, when used inside a bridge, the sensors could detect any cracks forming or structural deficiencies. In both cases, the sensors would send a signal to the nearby powered receiver.

A temperature change of only 0.25 degrees Celsius creates enough energy to power the sensor node to read and send data wirelessly to a receiver 5 meters away. That means any slight shift in an office building’s air conditioning or the natural outside air temperature during the course of a day would be more than enough to activate the chemical in the bellows.

The UW’s technology uses temperature changes over time as its power source. Devices called thermoelectric generators also leverage varying temperatures for power, but these instruments require a temperature difference at an exact moment, such as in a place where one side is hot and the other is cool.

The researchers have filed patents for the technology and plan to make it smaller, about the size of a D battery. A future version would include four chemicals that activate in different temperature ranges so the same device could be used in various climates.

“I think our approach is unique,” said Chen Zhao, lead author and a UW doctoral student in electrical engineering. “We provide a simple design that includes some 3-D printed and off-the-shelf components. With our Web page and source code, others can download and build their own power harvesters.”

Other members of the research team are Joshua Smith, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering; Sam Yisrael, an undergraduate student in electrical engineering; Sidhant Gupta, a former UW doctoral student; and Eric Larson, an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University and former UW doctoral student.

This research was funded by the Intel Science and Technology Center for Pervasive Computing at the UW and the Sloan Foundation.

###

For more information, contact the research team at temperature-harvester@uw.edu.

Michelle Ma | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu/news/2014/09/03/changing-temperature-powers-sensors-in-hard-to-reach-places/

Further reports about: 3-D Computing Devices Pervasive energy inside pressure temperature waves

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Reliable systems for recharging electric vehicles
01.04.2015 | Fraunhofer Application Center System Technology Ilmenau (IOSB) AST

nachricht Gearless drive system for elevator doors combines safety and versatility
31.03.2015 | Siemens AG

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Lizard activity levels can help scientists predict environmental change

Research study provides new tools to assess warming temperatures

Spring is here and ectotherms, or animals dependent on external sources to raise their body temperature, are becoming more active. Recent studies have shown...

Im Focus: Hannover Messe 2015: Saving energy with smart façades

Glass-fronted office buildings are some of the biggest energy consumers, and regulating their temperature is a big job. Now a façade element developed by Fraunhofer researchers and designers for glass fronts is to reduce energy consumption by harnessing solar thermal energy. A demonstrator version will be on display at Hannover Messe.

In Germany, buildings account for almost 40 percent of all energy usage. Heating, cooling and ventilating homes, offices and public spaces is expensive – and...

Im Focus: Nonoxide ceramics open up new perspectives for the chemical and plant engineering

Outstanding chemical, thermal and tribological properties predestine silicon carbide for the production of ceramic components of high volume. A novel method now overcomes the procedural and technical limitations of conventional design methods for the production of components with large differences in wall thickness and demanding undercuts.

Extremely hard as diamond, shrinking-free manufacturing, resistance to chemicals, wear and temperatures up to 1300 °C: Silicon carbide (SiSiC) bundles all...

Im Focus: Experiment Provides the Best Look Yet at 'Warm Dense Matter' at Cores of Giant Planets

In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...

Im Focus: Energy-autonomous and wireless monitoring protects marine gearboxes

The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.

As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference On Regenerative Medicine 2015: Registration And Abstract Submission Now Open

25.03.2015 | Event News

University presidents from all over the world meet in Hamburg

19.03.2015 | Event News

10. CeBiTec Symposium zum Big Data-Problem

17.03.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers improve efficiency of human walking

02.04.2015 | Health and Medicine

NOAA study provides detailed projections of coral bleaching

02.04.2015 | Earth Sciences

Current residential development research is a poor foundation for sustainable development

02.04.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>