Using Energy Harvesting to power wireless sensors in production environment


Nuremberg: Wireless sensors are an essential component in the Industrial Internet of Things IIoT. To record and transmit various kinds of physical pa-rameters and data, such sensors require permanent power. Fraunhofer IIS has developed a self-sufficient power supply specifically for IIoT sensors that uses existing vibrations, for example from machines, to generate electrical ener-gy. Thus, these sensors can be used for condition monitoring in production and require neither power cables nor constant battery changes.

Self-sufficient power supply for IIoT sensors with the vibration converter from Fraunhofer IIS.
© Fraunhofer IIS/Kurt Fuchs
Self-sufficient power supply for IIoT sensors with the vibration converter from Fraunhofer IIS.

Wireless sensors are being increasingly used in production environments. IIoT system architectures are implemented to connect machines, plants and IT systems with each other in order to achieve better resource efficiency, productivity and maintenance. Smart sensors that transmit information to the IT system by radio signals are needed to collect the necessary data. However, these sensors require sufficient power. The advantage of a self-sufficient power supply is that neither a power cable nor a frequent battery change is necessary.

Self-sufficient energy supply of IIoT sensors with Energy Harvesting

With Energy Harvesting technologies, sensors for detecting wear or damage on machines can be powered with energy independently in so-called condition monitoring scenarios. Fraunhofer IIS technologies offer enormous advantages over conventional battery-powered energy supplies, especially in hard-to-reach locations or where data is very frequently collected. With the extremely efficient power management electronics from Fraunhofer IIS, even the smallest currents or voltages from vibration or thermal converters can be used. Existing vibrations and temperature differences in production plants are thus used to generate energy for sensors. Therefore, machine conditions can be monitored and analyzed permanently and maintenance-free.

Newly developed vibration converter from Fraunhofer IIS

Even smallest accelerations of 100 mg are sufficient to generate sufficient electrical energy that several sensors can be powered and data can be transferred to an IT system wirelessly. Fraunhofer IIS group »Integrated Energy Supplies« is focused on the development of highly efficient power management systems and power supplies as well as complete micro energy systems. The developed voltage converters and maximum power point trackers can work with minimal voltages and currents and are thus able to use and store smallest amounts of energy from the environment to be used for powering small wireless sensors. The optimum mechanical, thermal and electrical design of all system components means that highly efficient applications can be implemented in the smallest possible space, and the minimum of installation and maintenance effort clearly sets them apart from the state of the art.