Energy consumption is now often the most significant problem discussed whenever technology is considered. As the energy efficiency of computational devices increases, self-power via harvested energy becomes increasingly viable for a host of electronic devices for sensing and other applications. The ECM kinetic energy harvester provides self-power for a variety of wireless sensors that include those for in situ SHM of NASA vehicles and infrastructure like that supporting the RPT program. ECM directly supports non-destructive evaluation (NDE) systems for safety assurance of future vehicles. There is a major effort within NASA, the FAA, and the military to develop integrated vehicle health management (IVHM) technology that uses SHM information for computer controlled recovery actions aimed at avoiding catastrophe. ECM provides enabling technology for this effort. ECM supports the NASA Engineering and Safety Center with tools for independent testing, analysis, and assessment of high-risk projects. NASA applications include self-health monitoring of future exploration vehicles and support structures like habitats and Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessels (COPVs). ECM-powered sensors reduce maintenance, minimize crew interaction, and reduce spaceflight technical risks and needs. ECM is directly responsive to Topic T3.01, which calls for innovative and compact systems to harvest and convert kinetic energy sources.
The current market is seeing increased communication between equipment within an intelligent network that can automatically manage tasks in smart buildings, logistics, and monitoring. Within this so-called "Internet of Things" (IoT) the majority of sensors and devices will eventually be connected to other devices and the Internet. Implementing this vision requires portable devices that can be applied wherever needed, which introduces a significant challengehow can these millions of distributed devices be powered? One path to success is energy harvesting wireless technology. Furthermore, the current dependence on batteries to power pacemakers, defibrillators, and other medical devices raise numerous safety and reliability concerns. Energy harvesting promises to eliminate bulky batteries and the risk of battery-related defects. Besides medical, applications for wireless sensors include Homeland Security structural analysis to mitigate threats (preparedness) and assess damage (response), smart structures, and SHM of civil and military structures. This broader impact includes widespread monitoring with the potential for preventing catastrophic failures and saving lives. Civil structures include bridges, highway systems, buildings, power plants, underground structures, and wind energy turbines (alternative and renewable energy). SHM applications are also driven by a desire to lower costs by moving from schedule-based to condition-based maintenance.