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.”