Shop floor energy harvesting enables sensor operation

February 15, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Shop floor energy harvesting enables sensor operation
For the operation of sensors in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS (Erlangen, Germany) has developed a self-sufficient power supply technique that uses vibrations, for example from machines, to generate electrical energy. These sensors can thus be used for operating and condition monitoring in production and require neither power cables nor battery replacement.

Sensors are increasingly being used in manufacturing environments. IIoT system architectures are designed to network machines, systems and IT systems to achieve better resource efficiency, productivity and maintenance. Smart sensors that transmit information to the entire system by radio are needed to collect the necessary data. However, these sensors require sufficient energy. The advantage of a self-sufficient power supply is that neither a disturbing power cable nor a battery change is necessary.

With these energy harvesting technologies, sensors for detecting wear or damage to machines in condition monitoring can be independently supplied with energy. Such technologies offer enormous advantages over conventional power supplies, especially in hard-to-reach locations or where data is frequently collected. With the extremely efficient power management electronics from Fraunhofer IIS , even very low smallest currents or voltages from vibration or thermal converters can be harnessed. Existing vibrations and temperature differences in production plants are thus used to generate energy for sensors. Thus, machine conditions can be monitored and analyzed permanently and maintenance-free.

Even very small accelerations of 100 milli-G are sufficient to generate enough electrical energy to supply several sensors and to transmit the data generated to an IT system every second. The developed voltage converters and maximum power point trackers can work with minimum voltages and currents and are thus able to use and store the smallest amounts of mechanical or thermal energy from the environment. The optimum mechanical and electrical design of all system components enables highly efficient applications to be implemented in the smallest possible space and thus clearly sets itself apart from the state of the art thanks to minimum installation and maintenance costs.

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