Summary of the technology
Researchers from the Spanish National Research Council at the Barcelona Microelectronics Institute (IMB-CNM) have recently developed a mechanical energy harvesting device by using a low-cost microelectronic fabrication process. The device acts as an electrical generator and is driven by environmentally-available mechanical energy such as ambient vibrations. Due to its flexibility and small size, it is of easy integration as power generator permitting the provision of full power autonomy to any wireless sensor node during its lifecycle into a network infrastructure following the philosophy “install and forget”.
Industrial partners are being sought to exploit the existing know-how through a patent license agreement.
New and innovative aspects
Smart nodes, belonging to a Wireless Sensor Network (WSN), interoperating within an existing internet infrastructure are currently used in a wide range of application such as healthcare, agriculture, security, and industrial sectors. According to the concept “Internet of Things” (IoT) each node requires a certain amount of energy to gather sensor information, process it and wirelessly transmit the resulting data to other connected nodes in the network structure.
Harvesting devices driven by small energies offered by ambient vibrations and acting as power suppliers of these particular nodes, are a good- performed, as well as environmentalfriendly solution for this challenge.
The device that has been developed is a piezoelectric energy harvester based on monolithically integrated nanostructures which have been grown by a silicon-friendly step–by-step process compatible with VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) silicon technologies. Their monolithical integration together with low drop-voltage diodes and buffer capacitors reduces the power losses and makes easer the combination of several generators without concerning about stress and charge signs.
Main advantages of its use
The device is able to harvest energy from ambient mechanical motions and guarantee full power autonomy to any wireless sensor node during its lifecycle without the need of batteries or maintenance following the “install and forget” philosophy.
Particularly suitable as power supplier for low-power wireless sensors (temperature, pressure, light, fluid flow, acceleration, …) in a distributed network for application in predictive maintenance, remote/hazardous sensing and security monitoring. The main advantages are:
- High performance due to less power losses that current mechanical energy harvesting systems.
- Low-cost fabrication through hydrothermal synthesis of piezoelectric nanostructures, compatible with very large scale integration silicon technologies.
- High integration capacity through monolithically integration of power management circuitry and buffer capacitors.
- Small size, tunable frequency and very low input acceleration (<1m/s2) needed to start generating power.
- Lack of batteries. Maintenance-free. Environmentally friendly.
- As power supplier for low-power wireless sensors (temperature, pressure, light, fluid flow, acceleration, …) in a distributed network for application in predictive maintenance, remote/hazardous sensing and security monitoring.
Intellectual property status
Spanish Priority patent.
Current development status
Desired business relationship
Paten License agreement