Wireless sensors push smart machines into green revolution

STMicroelectronics, ARaymond, and Micropelt demonstrated thermal-energy harvesting solutions at Hannover Fair.

05/31/2011


STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM), ARaymond, and Micropelt have announced that they are jointly presenting thermal-energy harvesting-based solutions to power ‘smart sensors’ and ‘smart microsystems’ at the Hannover Fair under the common theme of "Green Solutions." The three companies partnered to exhibit the value chain of self-sustaining wireless systems. 

Wireless sensor and actuator systems are reportedly strong future contributors to energy and resource efficiency; the improvement of asset health and uptime; and more efficient condition-based maintenance and operating safety of machines and production equipment. Ubiquitous wireless systems are indispensable to achieving a huge green impact; however, they are a viable option only if local battery maintenance can be circumvented.

Micropelt has developed chip-sized thermogenerators (TEGs) which turn local heat fluxes into electrical energy for ultra-low-power systems. Due to the highest power density in a few square millimeters of footprint, Micropelt’s chip-sized thermogenerators have attracted many customers worldwide. STMicroelectronics, one of the world’s biggest chip makers, and ARaymond, a worldwide supplier to the automotive and solar industries, are presenting solutions they have co-developed with Micropelt. 

ST focuses on components supporting energy harvesters in their complementary role of an energy generator with energy storage. Consequently, the development efforts between ST and Micropelt focused on an evaluation system featuring ST’s new robust and long-life solid-state thin-film rechargeable battery (EnFilm) combined with Micropelt’s Thermal Electrical Generator (TEG) chip. The Perpetual Energy Module (PEM-TE01) system demonstrates how these two technologies can provide uninterrupted power and establish a virtual perpetual-energy solution to a long-life and maintenance-free wireless system.

ARaymond’s engineers teamed up with Micropelt to develop a new industrial approach to hermetically packaging Micropelt’s energy-harvesting wireless-sensor evaluation platform, TE-Power NODE. The joint effort has resulted in ARaymond’s fully energy-autonomous wireless temperature sensor Heat BiTe for use in solar-thermal and similar systems which carry a liquid that is warmer or colder than ambient. Micropelt uses a variation of this liquid harvester solution which features a flat interface for attachment to any warm surface to ruggedize their evaluation kit to IP47- and IP48-level. It is now called TE-Power MOTE. 

“Leveraging our expertise in power management and power saving, energy harvesting is a very attractive new opportunity for which we can apply existing ST technologies,” said Igor Bimbaud, ST’s New Energies BU Director. “Our jointly developed PEM-TE01 demonstrates the concept of a perpetual self-sustained energy supply for low-power systems. Our thin-film cell stores every bit of energy that has been harvested, keeping it for years and working throughout the device’s life.”

“Many of our customers complain about wiring issues while asking for greater intelligence in the components. Wiring is expensive, resistive to automation and every interface can cause trouble,” explained Dr. Hans-Jürgen Lesser, ARaymond’s Executive Director for R+D. “We found Micropelt’s thermoharvesting technology to be a perfect solution to these issues, because we already provide fluid handling solutions to many customers. Now we can integrate our thermoharvesting Heat BiTe into various fluid systems achieving a wireless and fully autonomous condition-monitoring system. This is one of the most versatile intelligent components available on the market and we’re proud of it.” 

“New technologies evolve by evidence,” concluded Wladimir Punt, Micropelt’s VP Sales and Marketing. “We are very pleased with the results of our cooperations with ST and ARaymond which proves to our current and future customers worldwide that thermoharvesting is a solution to many of today’s issues.”

- Edited by Chris Vavra, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com