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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

High Temperature Multimode Harvester for Wireless Strain Applications, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Monitoring of structural strain is a well-established method for assessing the fatigue life and operational loads of aerospace vessels, aircraft, bridges, and other load-bearing structures. Information from extensive instrumentation using 100's to 1000's of strain gages can be fed into a condition based maintenance (CBM) algorithm to improve structural health assessments, detect damage, and lower maintenance costs. Current methods for measuring strain are too cumbersome, bulky, and costly to be practical for a large scale dense network of strain sensors. Furthermore, existing piezoelectric-based vibrational energy harvesters are built around general purpose components designed for operation in low-temperature application spaces. To realize pervasive structural health monitoring across a wide range of thermal and vibrational environments, a low cost, minimally intrusive, low maintenance, and reliable technology is needed. Cutting edge microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors for measurements of strain, acceleration, pressure, acoustic emission, and temperature are becoming increasingly available for use in CBM and structural health monitoring (SHM). While these sensors offer a promising future for wireless sensing networks (WSN), implementation for CBM remains cumbersome due to the lack of versatile, cost-effective powering solutions. Wiring external power to sensors is an unattractive solution given the required installation overhead and associated maintenance costs. Battery powered solutions are unreliable and battery maintenance for a dense network of thousands of sensor nodes is not practical. For this STTR effort, Prime Photonics proposes to team with Virginia Tech to develop a multimode vibrational-thermal harvester with effective energy capture and efficient conversion. More »

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