ERC Researchers Explore Technology for Energy Harvesting in Self-Powered Sensors

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Researchers affiliated with the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at the University of Minnesota, are exploring the concept of energy harvesting in various sensors by developing models and devices that can demonstrate use of the technology.


In a hydraulic system, an energy-harvesting technology might be integrated with, for example, health-monitoring sensors and eliminate the need for batteries or wires providing power to individual sensors; this would reduce maintenance contact and eliminate potential points of failure.


The pressure ripple present in most hydraulic systems is commonly viewed as an annoyance or detriment to system performance. However, pressure ripple also represents a high-intensity power source for energy harvesting. In fact, the energy density is so high that material and system nonlinearities come into play. This concept has been explored to develop models of energy-harvesting devices exposed to hydraulic-pressure ripple, accounting for the electrical-mechanical coupling between the hydraulic fluid and an electrical-conversion material within the device. Three generations of prototype devices, depicted in the accompanying figure, have been developed and tested.