Earth Notes: On the Energy Harvesting IUK/KTN Dissemination Event (2017-07)

Updated 2022-09-14.
Innovate UK funding dissemination event hosted by the Knowledge Transfer Network, London. #microgen
Live notes from the meeting on 2016-07-25 hosted by the Knowledge Transfer Network, Business Design Centre, London. (Some light editing.)

Overview of the Energy Harvesting SIG and KTN

Simon Yarwood, Knowledge Transfer Manager - ICT and Energy Harvesting.

KTN is a non-profit that helps businesses grow the economy, by providing connections. And by helping find sources of (government) funding.

The Energy Harvesting SIG attempts to bring together a community of potential users ("challenge owners") and solution providers for energy-harvesting-powered tech.

Manages a community map, workshops. Late spring 2018 event to review.

Not everything is powering a sensor!

Potential new (£15m) grant funding 2017-09-04 for new types of energy harvesting and sensing. This will be the Emerging and Enabling Technologies competition. Sensing is always in. Still in draft.

(Break point: £100k, single company, max 12M.)

Will travel to meet users and tech providers!

Perpetuum Projects and Q+A

Roy Freeland, President, Perpetuum.

Products are vibration energy harvesters. Many already out in the field.

Know-how is understanding vibration, knowing how to harvest energy, and complete sensors powered by vibration.

At core a magnet bouncing up and down on spring, with a coil to extract the A/C. 14 families of patents!

ATX zone 1 certified for hazardous areas.

Example milliwatt wireless vibration-powered sensor in a megawatt generator set. Cheap and easy!

Monitoring train wheel bearings traditionally done by ear. Good application for vibration powered wireless autonomous sensor with 10 minutes install, temperature and vibration sensor. Local MCU to analyse locally to reduce transmitted data.

Discovered interesting sharp change in behaviour that indicates wheel flat, which damages bearing and tracks.

Funding awards: ENERGYMAN (improved power management and energy storage) and WARNSS (new applications - power requirements with limited space).


Problems with (super)capacitor storage (lifetime) at high temperatures; adopted Lithium based HLC technology (needs minimum voltage). See Tadiran.

GEHAM swaps with standard OEM battery module. Everything seems to need 3mW!


EH powered train bearing and wheel monitoring systems. Thousands of units in 8 countries.

Customers want more such as monitoring, eg: motor, gearbox, braking, suspension, track.

Typical setup has one big EH unit on train doing relaying to outside world, with lots of small (mesh) wireless sensors talking to it.

This is real IoT as data can then all be relayed across the Internet to eg fleet manager with feet up on holiday digging through trends via the cloud! Is problem developing slowly, or does train need to come off service now?

(In response to a question from the floor: energy harvesting from the human body is not easy. 4mph walk for several house available EH is like a few minutes crank of a handle.)

Had to improve (eg) off-the-shelf capacitors for this application. (The manufacturer adjusted the product.)

The data analysis and correlation actually looking at what the damage has been to tracks or bearings or whatever has been interesting and hard work.

Switching train system to condition-based maintenance has 2-year payback.

(Even satellite-transponder remotely wireless powered in development.)

Montagu Project and Q+A

Carol Featherston, Cardiff University, presenting.

Energy harvesting for aircraft structural health monitoring feasibility project.

Aircraft currently fully inspected after set number of flying hours. Trying to continuously monitor and do inspection when problem detected. Also condition-based maintenance to save time and money.

Detecting existence of problem, detecting where, what sort of damage monitoring progressively more power-hungry.

Passive and active detection techniques have different apparent power requirements. But passive may require sensing all the time and actually using more.

Interesting alternative (non-first-order) ways of reducing whole system power by rearranging sensing details. Eg clustering sensors to avoid having to synchronise them to detect location of damage/structural event.

Combined thermoelectric (only available at certain times) and vibration piezo-electric available throughout a flight.

Project partner Microsemi is working on a power system to combine those and provide storage.

Broadband (0--400Hz) frequency vibration harvester initially based on multiple cantilevered piezo elements with different resonant frequencies.

Subsequent topology optimisation to get desired resonant frequencies, with double cantilever and strange 'organic' shape! Still work in progress to maximally direct deformation to the piezo element.

Thermal gradients of maybe 15K available. But changes in different parts of the aircraft at different parts of a flight. For powering a TEG (ThermoElectric Generator).

Examined different heatsink design (eg finned for directed flow, pin for non-directional air flow) and other construction (simple copper, copper with graphite wrapper, pin shape eg hollow or not, pin layout).

(Data is stored on sensors for flight and collected at the end. Transmission of the data is power-hungry.)

European Thermodynamics Projects and Q+A

Dr Richard Tuley presenting for European Thermodynamics.

Bespoke thermal management: moving heat around (eg heat pipes) and potentially extracting energy from some of it.

Broadcast and military customers.

Shortly launching wireless thermal energy harvesting sensor node. Eg can eg clamp to hot pipe. Needs 20K temperature delta.

Printed thermoelectric materials/devices.

Patent-pending double-side scheme to separate the two thermoelectric materials which reduces chemical contamination and structural stress problems.

Needs better material performance for better power output.

Flexible (eg 'magic tape') devices alluring but very hard. Partly because difficult to preserve temperature differential and thus output.

Thus hot-pipe clamp with hedgehog pin heatsink design much better.

Scale-up (with the novel inks) has been challenging. Stencil printing with thicker layers proved better than original concept.

Pitches from Delegates

CPI: Centre for Process Innovation: part of High Value Manufacturing Catapult. Wants to help push up TRL very close to final product. Key areas: development of applications (eg IoT) and components.

Ocarrt: wants energy harvesting to make its IoT devices more mobile.

Lightricity: (spin-out from Sharp Labs of Europe). Offers light harvesting from ambient in-building lighting. 6x more power gathered per unit area than a-Si PV device; more than 20uW/cm^2 at 200 lux. Also offers whole subsystem including power management and storage.

Yours truly for OpenTRV asking for help developing energy harvesting TRV4 for end of 2018.

Lightricity Projects and Q+A

Mathieu Bellanger presenting for Lightricity.

Indoors light energy harvesting for IoT, to eliminate the need for primary batteries.

Up to 6x more power per unit area than amorphous silicon cells. ~22uW/cm^2 at 200 lux from white LED lighting, maybe 18 under fluorescent?

Non-silicon based tech with 20 year life - good for fit-and-forget IoT.

Still operational down to 10 lux.

Doesn't degrade with outdoor lighting.

Can be made fully black or can show contacts for aesthetics either way.

Available incident light power available indoors at 200lx is 50-70uW/cm^2. Can capture ~30% of that.

4EverLast 'everlasting' battery product, very energy efficient. Can power LoRa/BLE devices directly.

One project was to measure sensing platform for CO2, light, temperature, humidity, with perpetual operation at 200 lux, one reading every 150s. (CO2 sensor eats the most energy of entire system, even just on warm-up...)

Have integrated PV and thin-film battery in 2mm depth.

Looking for collaborators; prototype samples are available.

PragmatIC Project and Q+A

Dr Richard Price presenting for PragmatIC Printing.

Flexible integrated circuits, thinner than human hair.

~50 staff. Cambridge still HQ.

Focus on "3rd wave" of electronics: PC to tablet/smartphone/etc to smart objects eg bank smart cards with > 1tn pa demand.

NFC enables real-time consumer engagements. 2.5bn NFC handsets globally by 2019.

Eg anti-counterfeit product verification at point-of-purchase via smartphone.

Does not take up branding surface real-estate.

PragmatIC's per-unit cost much lower than existing silicon, and slimmer.

Work with CIMLAE - Center for Innovation Manufacturing Large-Area Electronics. Antennas and circuits was the selected key area for work.

The haRFest project: how to get optimum power transfer with printed antenna and flexible tags to power them and their embedded MCUs?

Includes trimming of caps during manufacturing to get the resonant frequency right on a fast-moving production line. Potentially using laser trimming or ink-jet printing of 'more' capacitance.

From lab to roll-to-roll volume printing: may not be best commercially.

PING project: Printed Intelligent NFC Game cards and packaging. (H2020 funded.)

Project SCOPE: smart packing. (Innovate UK funded, with others.)

Project Remedies: pharma packaging. (Innovate UK funded, with others.)

Project FlexLogIC: factory in a box. CapEx 100-1000x less than Si fab. Less than 1c (US) per flexIC. (H2020 funded.)

Perpetual energy modules, RF energy harvesting + storage for IoT. (Beyond haRFest.)