Energy harvesting technology is to capture localised sources of ambient energy (such as vibration, motion and airflow) to power small electric and electronic devices. It promises self-powered systems capable of operating for years without any need for batteries or mains connection, working in a truly energy autonomous manner.
The Energy Harvesting Research Group at the University of Exeter, led by Prof. Meiling Zhu, has developed a high performance “proof-of-concept” airflow energy harvesting powered wireless sensor node demonstrator and tested it in a wind tunnel through an Innovation UK project. The demonstrator is specifically designed to install inside of a wing and harvest airflow energy generated by the aircraft during flight in the sky. We have developed a completed system, including a micro-turbine (Φ15 mm), an effective power management and wireless sensor nodes and it is in TRL 6.
The group has also developed another high performance “proof-of-concept” strain energy harvesting powered wireless sensor node demonstrator and tested it in emulated aircraft loading conditions in the Lab with an EPSRC funding, which is specifically designed to harvest aircraft wing strain energy generated by the aircraft vibration during take-off, cruising and landing and it is in TRL 4 with.
Prof. Meiling Zhu will present these two technology demonstrators with associated technology breakthroughs that her group has developed in novel energy harvesting methods, energy efficient and adaptive power management and energy-aware wireless sensing. The advantage of systems using sensors incorporating energy harvesting and wireless technology in aerospace industry is that they can reduce the weight of wires and fixtures inside aircraft wings, increase the flight speed and reduce the fuel consumption and thus reduce the carbon emission.
Professor Meiling Zhu, Head of Department - Energy Harvesting Team, Exeter University