Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


K-State engineers helping develop energy-harvesting radios

If changing the batteries in the remote control or smoke detector seems like a chore, imagine having to change hundreds of batteries in sensors scattered across a busy bridge.

That's why Kansas State University engineers are helping a semiconductor manufacturer implement its idea of an energy-harvesting radio. It could transmit important data -- like stress measurements on a bridge, for instance -- without needing a change of batteries, ever.

Bill Kuhn, K-State professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Xiaohu Zhang, master's student in electrical engineering, are developing an energy-harvesting radio for Peregrine Semiconductor, a San Diego-based integrated circuit manufacturer.

"This type of radio technology may exist in your house, for instance if you have a temperature sensor outside that radios data to a display inside," Kuhn said. "But those devices need to have their batteries changed. This radio doesn't."

Peregrine Semiconductor is looking at possible applications for the technology. This could include monitoring stress, temperature and pressure on bridges and other structures. Ron Reedy, Peregrine's chief technical officer, said that fulfilling this vision of autonomous sensors requires highly integrated, low power radio chips -- exactly the kind that K-State and Peregrine have demonstrated to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Peregrine's trademarked UltraCMOS silicon-on-sapphire technology.

Meanwhile, the K-State engineers are looking at the design challenges of a radio system like this. Kuhn and Zhang have been working on the project for a little more than a year. They are creating a demonstration to test how far the signals can travel from the sensors.

Zhang constructed a demonstration board using solar cells from inexpensive calculators to power the radio. The board has capacitors that capture and store the light energy to power the radio without a battery. Although this prototype captures and stores light energy, Kuhn said that energy-harvesting radios could be powered by a number of different ways, including by electrochemical, mechanical or thermal energy.

The demonstration board that Zhang created includes a microprocessor to store data before it's transmitted via radio. The radio used is the "Mars chip" that Kuhn helped develop in a successful project he and a team from K-State, Cal Tech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Peregrine Semiconductor did for NASA. They developed a micro transceiver to use on Mars rovers and scouts. In 2007, the work was published in Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

In this way, Kuhn said the energy-harvesting radio they are working on now is an example of a NASA spinoff -- that is, technology developed for space exploration that can be used here on Earth.

When the stored data is ready to be transmitted, the radio sends out a data-burst. In Zhang's model, this happens every five seconds. It may just sound like a "blip," but that burst contains data that a computer can translate into meaningful information, such as telling an engineer the stress or strain on the underside of a bridge. Kuhn said that it's kind of like sending a text message from one cell phone to another: After data are transmitted through the air, the recipient's cell phone turns that data back into text that can be understood.

Kuhn and Zhang are stepping in to perfect the radio system design. This includes determining which frequencies to use based on how the environment affects radio waves indoors versus outdoors. They also have to look at how noise and other factors may limit the sensitivity of the receiver that's getting the data from all of the sensors.

Because these sensors save data in their microprocessors, Kuhn and Zhang are working on timing and wake-up commands that tell the sensors when to send the stored information to the receiver. Through engineering analysis, they are determining tradeoffs between power requirements, data-rate and transmission range issues.

Kuhn and Zhang will present research on the radio communication aspects of the project at the Radio and Wireless Symposium in January 2009.

Bill Kuhn | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht 'Super yeast' has the power to improve economics of biofuels
18.10.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

nachricht Engineers reveal fabrication process for revolutionary transparent sensors
14.10.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

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: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>