Energy Harvesting to Power the Internet of Things

The wireless interconnection of everyday objects known as the Internet of Things depends on networks of wireless sensors that need a low but constant supply of electrical power. This can be provided by electromagnetic energy collectors that generate electricity directly from the environment. Lise-Marie Lacroix of the University of Toulouse, France, with colleagues from Toulouse, Grenoble and Atlanta, Georgia, USA, used a mathematical technique, finite element simulation, to optimize the design of such a recuperator energy so that it generates electricity as efficiently as possible. This work has just been published in the journal EPJ special topics.

The Internet of Things consists of an enormous number of portable, usually small devices, each of which needs its own source of sustainable micro-energy. Batteries are unsatisfactory for this as they will often need to be replaced or recharged. Many different technologies are being considered instead, with one of the most promising solutions being electromagnetic energy harvesting.

An electromagnetic energy harvester consists of a vibrating plate holding an array of facing micro-magnets coupled to a parallel static coil. Electrical energy is generated by vibrating magnets and the amount of electricity that can enter a circuit depends on the design of the coil and the magnet and the spacing between them.

Lacroix and his team studied a system in which the magnets were state-of-the-art NdFeB, that is, they were composed of an alloy of neodymium, a rare earth metal, with iron. and boron. They discovered that power could be optimized through a trade-off between the spacing of the magnets in the array and the number of turns in the coil; reducing the distance between the coil and the array and increasing the thickness of the magnets can also increase it. “We are now producing harvesters using the guidelines we developed through this study,” she explains. These devices are likely to prove useful in the aerospace, automotive, and biomedical industries and others that have come to rely on the Internet of Things.

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Journal reference:

  1. Ilona Lecerf, Pierre Moritz, José Elías Angulo-Cervera, Fabrice Mathieu, David Bourrier, Liviu Nicu, Thierry Leïchlé, Frederico Orlandini-Keller, Thibaut Devillers, Nora M. Dempsey, Guillaume Viau, Lise-Marie Lacroix, Thomas Blon. Optimization of a vibrating MEMS electromagnetic energy harvester using simulations. Special Topics of the European Physics Review, 2022; DO I: 10.1140/epjs/s11734-022-00577-8

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