Researchers attaching a data logger to a shipping container. © Fraunhofer IIS
“We can use the data collected to design vibration converters, such as the piezoelectric generators, to feed the sensors, radio transmission receivers, tracking systems and other low-power-consuming devices with enough energy to power them,“ explains the IIS group manager and engineer, Dr. Peter Spies. “The tracking systems in use to date run on just a battery. These batteries need constant replacement, but that involves a lot of effort and expense. Thanks to energy harvesting, we can replace the batteries and wiring.“
Logistics processes are not the only candidates, however. The energy “harvested“ can be used for a great many other applications as well – to charge heart-rate monitors, sensors in washing machines and production plants, or measurement systems in cars to measure the air pressure in tires.
The elements of the data logger include an acceleration sensor, a GPS module, a micro-controller, an SD card and a WiFi interface. The sensor measures the freight train‘s acceleration along three axes. At the same time, the GPS module determines the vehicle‘s position and stores the data along with the acceleration values on the SD card. These parameters can be used to pinpoint the train‘s speed and the amount of energy available to it. “That way, we can fine-tune the energy converter and tailor it to the application involved,“ the researcher adds.
The data logger is already in use in freight cars, trucks and machinery. Spies and his team are currently working to develop a complete tracking system that includes not only a GSM module and a GPS receiver but also a vibration converter that turns mechanical energy into electrical energy. The researchers are showcasing a prototype of the IIS data logger at the Sensor+Test 2012 trade fair, May 22-24 in Nuremberg, in Hall 12, Booth 202.
Dr.-Ing. Peter Spies | Fraunhofer Research News
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