The FlexTech Alliance, in partnership with the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL), recently awarded The University of California at Berkeley and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo a contract to deliver fully-integrated, printed, self-rechargeable wireless sensor nodes for engine and motor condition monitoring. The $300,000 project is scheduled for completion in early 2016.
This project focuses on the market for condition-based monitoring (CBM) by developing prototype wireless monitoring devices that are flexible, possess a long use-phase, and can be designed to fit unique geometries. It will mark a substantial improvement on larger, heavier equipment that is unable to be integrated in the confined spaces around engines and motors. By utilizing several printing methods, including flexographic, dispenser, and screen, the project team aims to produce a proof-of-concept device that will harvest and store enough energy from the waste heat of the engine to keep the equipment in operation well beyond that of typical sensor nodes.
The device will utilize a printed thermoelectric generator for generating power from engine waste heat, a printed supercapacitor for supplying sufficient duty-cycle power, a printed battery for storing harvested energy and long-term power, and an accelerometer for sensing engine vibrations indicative of operational health. Utilization of a flexible substrate will allow the device to be rolled into a cylinder to achieve a small footprint.
The project team from UC Berkeley includes Dr. Paul Wright as project lead, Dr. James Evans, and Dr. Ana Claudia Arias. Wright will lead the integration, development, and optimization of the individual device components, while Evans will focus on the fundamental materials science and chemistry research. Arias will contribute manufacturing of conductive traces on flexible substrates to provide the platform for which each device will reside. Dr. Malcolm Keif of Cal Poly will provide large-scale manufacturing expertise, testing facilities, and equipment for increasing the scale of production.
“FlexTech and ARL expect this project to advance the art and provide a real world solution for monitoring engines and motors in real time,” explained Michael Ciesinski, CEO of FlexTech. “It’s entirely possible that the project could result in start-up company, providing a win-win for everyone involved.”