Photo: IMMS

ECo-Har­vester Project Start — Ambi­ent Ener­gy for Decen­tral­ized Sen­sor Applications

The Hahn-Schickard-Gesellschaft für Ange­wandte Forschung e.V. and the IMMS Insti­tute for Micro­elec­tron­ics and Mecha­tron­ic sys­tems gemein­nützige GmbH (IMMS GmbH) took part in the three-year DFG research project “ECo-Har­vester – Design Method­ol­o­gy for the Co-Design of Mechan­i­cal Struc­ture and Inter­face Switch­ing of Elec­tro­dy­nam­ic Ener­gy Har­vester” in the vir­tu­al kick-off meet­ing on 15 Feb­ru­ary 2021.
Ener­gy har­vesters con­vert ambi­ent ener­gy into elec­tri­cal ener­gy in order to oper­ate, for exam­ple, ener­gy self-suf­fi­cient radio-sen­sor nodes for mon­i­tor­ing tasks in an indus­tri­al envi­ron­ment and to min­i­mize the nec­es­sary main­te­nance and instal­la­tion costs. Ener­gy har­vesters thus have a high poten­tial to become a key tech­nol­o­gy for the decen­tral­ized dis­tri­b­u­tion of sen­sor applications.
The eCo-Har­vester research project aims to devel­op a com­put­er-aid­ed design method­ol­o­gy for the co-design of mechan­ics and elec­tron­ics for elec­tro­dy­nam­ic vibra­tion har­vesters in order to be able to derive the opti­mal har­vest­ing sys­tem depend­ing on the giv­en requirements.
“We don’t just want to assem­ble two com­po­nents, we want an over­all sys­tem design. The opti­mum of the over­all sys­tem is not always the respec­tive opti­mum of the sub­sys­tems,” explained Prof. Dr. Ralf Som­mer, Sci­en­tif­ic Direc­tor of IMMS. This over­all sys­tem view is nec­es­sary in order to increase the effi­cien­cy of the sys­tem, i.e. to deliv­er more pow­er or to build small­er with the same per­for­mance, Som­mer added. Such an approach extends the state of the art, as the com­po­nents are cur­rent­ly being devel­oped many times sep­a­rate­ly from each other.
The IMMS will focus on mechan­i­cal mod­el­ing, includ­ing mag­net­ic fields and mechan­i­cal atten­u­a­tion of ener­gy har­vesters that pro­duce ener­gy from vibra­tions. Hahn-Schickard focus­es on the front end cir­cuits with high effi­cien­cy or low loss­es in order to pro­vide the ener­gy from the har­vester mech­a­nism in a suit­able form for sen­sor systems.
“How­ev­er, since both part­ners focus on the inter­play of har­vester design and inter­face switch­ing, we can take advan­tage of syn­er­gy effects,” said Dr.-Ing. Thorsten Hehn, Group Leader for Elec­tron­ic Sys­tems at Hahn-Schickard. By means of a cor­re­spond­ing mod­el­ling, an opti­mal over­all con­cept from the topolo­gies for the har­vester and the inter­face cir­cuit, includ­ing the para­me­ter deter­mi­na­tion, can be gen­er­at­ed for giv­en con­di­tions, such as sig­nal shape, fre­quen­cy and ampli­tude of the exci­ta­tion, size of the har­vester, etc. This enables not only cost-effec­tive design, but also advanced deploy­ment sce­nar­ios through improved sys­tem properties.
“The chal­lenges lie in the fact that there are a vari­ety of topo­log­i­cal basic struc­tures on the part of mechan­ics and, for exam­ple, many volt­age ranges on the elec­tron­ics side,” Hehn sum­ma­rized. “The excit­ing ques­tion is what is best for the over­all sys­tem. We look for­ward to the answers we will pro­vide together.”