Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Self-powered sensors

Abstract:
Harvesting electricity from small temperature differences could enable a new generation of electronic devices that don't need batteries.

By David L. Chandler, MIT News Office

Self-powered sensors

Cambridge, MA | Posted on March 10th, 2010

It can be inconvenient to replace batteries in devices that need to work over long periods of time. Doctors might have to get beneath a patient's skin to replace batteries for implanted biomedical monitoring or treatment systems. Batteries used in devices that monitor machinery, infrastructure or industrial installations may be crammed into hard-to-reach nooks or distributed over wide areas that are often difficult to access.

But new technology being developed by MIT researchers could make such replacements unnecessary.

Soon, such devices could be powered just by differences in temperature between the body (or another warm object) and the surrounding air, eliminating or reducing the need for a battery. They would use new energy-scavenging systems being developed by Anantha Chandrakasan, MIT's Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering and director of the MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories, and Yogesh Ramadass SM '06, PhD '09.

Such a system, for example, could enable 24-hour-a-day monitoring of heart rate, blood sugar or other biomedical data, through a simple device worn on a patient's arm or a leg and powered by the body's temperature (which, except on a 98.6-degree F summer day, would always be different from the surrounding air). A similarly powered system could monitor the warm exhaust gases in the flues of a chemical plant, or air quality in the ducts of a heating and ventilation system.

The concept of harvesting energy from differences in temperature is nothing new. Many technologies for doing so have been developed, including devices NASA has used to power probes sent into deep space (the probes harvest heat from radioactive plutonium). Certain semiconductor materials, by their nature, will produce a flow of electrical current when one side is hotter than the other — or, conversely, will produce a difference in temperature when a current is run through them. Such materials are already used for solid-state coolers and heaters for food or beverages.

The principle was discovered in the 19th century, but only in recent years has it been seriously explored as an energy source. In thermoelectric materials, as soon as there is a temperature difference, heat begins to flow from the hotter to the cooler side. In the process, at the atomic scale this heat flow propels charge carriers (known as electrons or electron holes) to migrate in the same direction, producing an electric current — and a voltage difference between the two sides.

The key to making this principle practical for low-powered devices is to harness as much as possible of the available energy. Chandrakasan and Ramadass have been working to get as close as possible to the theoretical limits of efficiency in tapping this heat energy.

The higher the temperature difference, the greater the potential for producing power, and most such power-generating devices are designed to exploit differences of tens to hundreds of degrees C. The unique aspect of the new MIT-developed devices is their ability to harness differences of just one or two degrees, producing tiny (about 100 microwatts) but nevertheless usable amounts of electric power. The key to the new technology is a control circuit that optimizes the match between the energy output from the thermoelectric material and the storage system connected to it, in this case a storage capacitor. The findings were presented this week at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.

Because thermoelectric systems rely on a difference in temperature between one side of the device and the other, they are not usable for implanted medical devices, where they would be in a uniform-temperature environment. The present experimental versions of the device require a metal heat-sink worn on an arm or leg, exposed to the ambient air. "There's work to be done on miniaturizing the whole system," Ramadass says. This might be accomplished by combining and simplifying the electronics and by improving airflow over the heat sink.

Ramadass says that as a result of research over the last decade, the power consumption of various electronic sensors, processors and communications devices has been greatly reduced, making it possible to power such devices from very low-power energy harvesting systems such as this wearable thermoelectric system.

David Lamb, chief operating officer of Camgian Microsystems, a company that produces a variety of low-power, lightweight semiconductor chips, says that "we believe the wireless sensor products we are developing will all migrate to energy harvesting, as we push their size, weight and power down." He adds that the research of Chandrakasan and Ramadass "is in the critical path of technologies required by companies such as Camgian that are developing next-generation microsystems."

Devices to use this power would in most cases still need some energy storage system, so that the constant slow trickle of energy could be accumulated and used in short bursts, for example to operate a transmitter to send data readings back to a receiver. Different ways of storing the energy are possible, such as the use of ultracapacitors, Ramadass says. "These will play a critical role, in order to build a complete energy harvesting system," he says.

After years of work on these highly efficient energy-scavenging devices, currently funded by a seed grant from the MIT Energy Initiative, Chandrakasan says, "the time has come to find the real applications and realize the vision."

Read part two of this series, "Power from motion and vibrations."

web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/power-from-motion-and-vibrations.html

####

About MIT
The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century — whether the focus is cancer, energy, economics or literature.

For more information, please click here

Copyright © MIT

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Assembly of nanoparticles proceeds like a zipper: Viruses and nanoparticles can be assembled into processable superlattice wires according to scientists from Aalto University Finland September 25th, 2017

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties: A simple method can give diamonds the special properties needed for quantum applications such as sensing magnetic fields September 24th, 2017

Quantum twisted Loong confirms the physical reality of wavefunctions September 23rd, 2017

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Possible Futures

Assembly of nanoparticles proceeds like a zipper: Viruses and nanoparticles can be assembled into processable superlattice wires according to scientists from Aalto University Finland September 25th, 2017

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties: A simple method can give diamonds the special properties needed for quantum applications such as sensing magnetic fields September 24th, 2017

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

Academic/Education

Two Scientists Receive Grants to Develop New Materials: Chad Mirkin and Monica Olvera de la Cruz recognized by Sherman Fairchild Foundation August 16th, 2017

Moving at the Speed of Light: University of Arizona selected for high-impact, industrial demonstration of new integrated photonic cryogenic datalink for focal plane arrays: Program is major milestone for AIM Photonics August 10th, 2017

Graduate Students from Across the Country Attend Hands-on NanoCamp: Prominent scientists Warren Oliver, Ph.D., and George Pharr, Ph.D., presented a weeklong NanoCamp for hand-picked graduate students across the United States July 26th, 2017

The Physics Department of Imperial College, London, uses the Quorum Q150T to deposit metals and ITO to make plasmonic sensors and electric contact pads July 13th, 2017

MEMS

First Capacitive Transducer with 13nm Gap July 27th, 2017

Bosch announces high-performance MEMS acceleration sensors for wearables June 27th, 2017

Smart multi-layered magnetic material acts as an electric switch: New study reveals characteristic of islands of magnetic metals between vacuum gaps, displaying tunnelling electric current March 1st, 2017

Engineers shrink microscope to dime-sized device February 17th, 2017

Chip Technology

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Physicists develop new recipes for design of fast single-photon gun Physicists develop high-speed single-photon sources for quantum computers of the future September 21st, 2017

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Announces Availability of mmWave and RF/Analog on Leading FDX™ FD-SOI Technology Platform: Technology solution delivers ‘connected intelligence’ to next generation high-volume wireless and IoT applications with lower power and significantly reduced cost September 20th, 2017

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Announces Availability of Embedded MRAM on Leading 22FDX® FD-SOI Platform: Advanced embedded non-volatile memory solution delivers ‘connected intelligence’ by expanding SoC capabilities on the 22nm process node September 20th, 2017

Nanomedicine

Do titanium dioxide particles from orthopedic implants disrupt bone repair? September 16th, 2017

Arrowhead Hosts Investor & Analyst R&D Day to Introduce TRiM(TM) Platform and Lead RNAi-based Drug Candidates September 14th, 2017

Graphene based terahertz absorbers: Printable graphene inks enable ultrafast lasers in the terahertz range September 13th, 2017

Applications for the nanomedTAB are open until September 18th, 2017 September 13th, 2017

Sensors

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties: A simple method can give diamonds the special properties needed for quantum applications such as sensing magnetic fields September 24th, 2017

Leti Develops Proof of Concept to Test Wireless Systems in Aircraft: Will Present Results of Joint Project at AeroTech Conference And Exhibition in Fort Worth, Texas, Sept. 26-28 September 20th, 2017

Research shows how DNA molecules cross nanopores: Study could inform biosensors, manufacturing, and more September 5th, 2017

Leti and Partners in PiezoMAT Project Develop New Fingerprint Technology for Highly Reliable Security and ID Applications: Ultra-high Resolution Pressure Sensing Uses Matrices of Vertical Piezoelectric Nanowire To Reconstruct the Smallest Features of Human Fingerprints September 5th, 2017

Announcements

Assembly of nanoparticles proceeds like a zipper: Viruses and nanoparticles can be assembled into processable superlattice wires according to scientists from Aalto University Finland September 25th, 2017

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties: A simple method can give diamonds the special properties needed for quantum applications such as sensing magnetic fields September 24th, 2017

Quantum twisted Loong confirms the physical reality of wavefunctions September 23rd, 2017

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Energy

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

Copper catalyst yields high efficiency CO2-to-fuels conversion: Berkeley Lab scientists discover critical role of nanoparticle transformation September 20th, 2017

Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene: Berkeley Lab advance is first demonstration of efficient, light-powered production of fuel via artificial photosynthesis September 19th, 2017

Insect eyes inspire new solar cell design from Stanford August 31st, 2017

Events/Classes

Leti Develops Proof of Concept to Test Wireless Systems in Aircraft: Will Present Results of Joint Project at AeroTech Conference And Exhibition in Fort Worth, Texas, Sept. 26-28 September 20th, 2017

Applications for the nanomedTAB are open until September 18th, 2017 September 13th, 2017

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals to Host R&D Day on RNAi-Based Therapies September 1st, 2017

Silk could improve sensitivity, flexibility of wearable body sensors August 20th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project