Wireless sensor networks have huge potential to improve efficiency and quality of manufacturing operations, enable smart grid applications, and enable demand response/smart buildings, among other exciting applications. Ubiquitous sensor networks would allow two-way communication, real-time remote monitoring, and rapid response to changing conditions. Consider the difference between landline telephones and smart phones to imagine how wireless sensing networks might transform infrastructure, energy, and manufacturing. However, current wireless sensor nodes are expensive to maintain as batteries die and need to be replaced, and the nodes are often very difficult to install. Energy harvesting has the potential to resolve these issues and enable a stick-on, set it and forget it type of node.
This talk will highlight the different types of energy harvesting research going on in our group, giving a brief overview of how each technology works and when it might be used. I will then focus in on piezoelectric vibration energy harvesting, which is the subject of my research. I will discuss experimental results of a MEMS harvester tested on machinery, optimization of the harvester, and integration of the energy harvester with energy storage. Finally, I will present a novel resonator design that is able to passively self-tune its frequency to match the input vibration.