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SBIR/STTR

Compact energy conversion module, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

This STTR project delivers a compact vibration-based Energy Conversion Module (ECM) that powers sensors for purposes like structural health monitoring (SHM). NASA customers include the ISS and the Orion deep space vehicle, both of which need wireless sensors to monitor and assess structural health. The ECM represents a significant advancement in the use of wireless and self-powered devices by enabling the miniaturization of vibration-based energy harvesting devices suitable for powering sensors. Implications of the innovation There exist two basic problems in reducing the size of vibration-based harvesters that plague all current commercially available devices—both are addressed here. The first is addressed by eliminating the problem of frequency matching in compact devices. The second is addressed by providing a broadband device capable of energy conversion across a range of frequencies. Technical objectives Our initial prototype is a TRL 4 unit that we used to demonstrate our ability to convert kinetic energy to useful electrical power. This prototype combines piezoelectric beam type transducers with artificially induced magnetic fields to force a nonlinear broadband behavior. Phase I shows feasibility through experimental tests and theoretical models that will establish that we can use this approach for compact sizing of low center frequency transducers. Research description Phase I transforms our prototype into a compact system and performs a variety of engineering feasibility tests under both typical ambient kinetic environments and the more high intensity environments that might be found in propulsion testing and launch facilities. Anticipated results Anticipated results include a reduction in the amount of battery waste generated by self-powered electronic devices that enables long-term wireless deployment. Phase I completes a TRL 5 prototype and validates system performance in relevant vibration environments. Phase II delivers a TRL 7 unit. More »

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