Self-Powering Sensors for the Internet of Things

Self-powering, inexpensive, small sensors are a challenge for researchers. They are going to be the building block in the Internet of Things, and market demand is ever increasing. A new project will develop a method for harvesting energy from vibrations in the environment

The Innovation ICT-project SEHPMET (Smart energy optimization via energy harvesting utilizing new Swedish piezo MEMS technology) addresses the increasing demand for low-cost, energy-efficient, autonomous sensor systems for emerging business areas, such as the Internet-of-Things and e-Health. The overall goal is to develop a ground-breaking, integrated energy-harvesting platform. As a starting point, the technology will be used to provide a power supply for wireless tire pressure monitoring sensors in heavy vehicles.

The project is led by the Swedish MEMS-producer Silex Microsystems, in cooperation with Acreo Swedish ICT and Linköping University. The project has a unique combined competence: Silex Microsystems is responsible for MEMS PZT material and manufacturing technology. The Sensor Systems department at Acreo is responsible for modeling, design and testing of the PZT MEMS energy harvester. And the Integrated Circuits and Systems division at Linköping University’s Electrical Engineering Department, is responsible for designing integrated systems for power management, as well as future, fully-integrated wireless sensors.

The project partners will focus on tire vibration as the energy source. When the mechanical structure starts to vibrate, the strains in the PZT material will generate charge. The concept is that the material will pick up vibrations in all three dimensions and convert it into energy.

“It is a great technical challenge to fundamentally develop a low cost micro system that is self-sufficient in energy. But it is necessary to fulfill the vision of the Internet of Things, in which many of the most common objects will communicate with each other,” says Thorbjörn Ebefors, Chief Technologist and VP R&D at Silex Microsystems AB.

In its first year, the project has developed a simulated design for the energy harvester and qualified new piezo materials. Silex plans to be ready to start the industrialization and qualification phase with its customers in 2015, using new PZT materials optimized for energy harvesting.

The project has received 5,8 MSEK in funding from the VINNOVA program Innovative ICT.

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SEHPMET - Smart energy optimization via energy harvesting

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