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SBIR/STTR

Compact Energy Conversion Module, Phase II

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

This STTR project delivers a compact vibration-based Energy Conversion Module (ECM) that powers sensors for purposes such as structural health monitoring (SHM). NASA customers include the Rocket Propulsion Test (RPT) program, the ISS, and the Orion deep space vehicle, all of which need wireless sensors to monitor and assess structural health. The ECM represents a major 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 existing prototype is a TRL 5 unit that we used to demonstrate our ability to convert kinetic energy to useful electrical power. This prototype combines piezoelectric beam transducers with artificially induced magnetic fields to force a nonlinear broadband behavior. Phase II uses this approach for compact sizing of low center frequency transducers with the objective of delivering a field-validated compact ECM that provides a near order-of-magnitude improvement over current energy harvesters. Research description Phase I created an efficient prototype and established feasibility. In Phase II we build a fully operational unit and perform field validation-tests compatible with SSC test beds. Anticipated results Anticipated results include a reduction in the amount of battery waste generated by self-powered devices that enables long-term wireless deployment. Phase I completed a TRL 5 prototype and tested its performance in relevant vibration environments. Phase II validates and delivers a TRL 6 unit. More »

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