With Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 comes a rapidly increased need for parameters to monitor, data collection and distribution of sensor systems. The main challenges for integration of a large number of miniaturised autonomous sensor systems is their dependency on electrical cables and limited battery life, which are important bottlenecks for today's applications and introduce sustainability challenges.
An alternative way of delivering energy is to harvest it from ambient sources such as vibration (such as motors, pumps), thermal gradients (like from combustion engines) or light (such as solar energy), which are otherwise wasted. These systems are self-supporting for the lifetime of the application.
We develop proof-of-concept prototypes and demonstrators for a sustainable self-supporting energy-autonomous sensor system based on years of experience in research on sensors and sensor systems, piezoelectric or electromagnetic technologies, RFID (Radio frequency identification), magnetic elastic resonance.
Energy harvesting technology enables sustainable energy supply to sensor systems for monitoring in inaccessible environments (such as inside motors, constructions), reduces the use of raw materials (like for electric cables, batteries) and increases the lifetime of rechargeable batteries. This, in turn, enables, for example, structural health monitoring and machine monitoring, increasing the productivity through preventative maintenance.
While few first products of energy-autonomous sensors are being used for building infrastructure management, in the industrial sector these are almost non-existing. For industrial applications, one reason is the lack of acceptance of this new technology, as reliability is crucial for embedded sensor systems that require continuous energy supply. Another challenge is the lack of an "energy supply toolkit" that would simplify the design process for energy harvesters.
Moreover, different industrial applications have different ambient energy to harvest from, which means that a variety of energy harvesting solutions must be available in directly usable form. In summary, the missing factors are design methods, technology components and complete sensor systems based on energy harvesting.