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Harvesting Power From Piezo Transducers

I recently wrote about energy harvesting applications (Energy Harvesting Applications: The New Frontier and The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Repair) and very low threshold MOSFETs (Very Low Gate Threshold FET – Maybe Too Low?). In an example of how all these pieces fit together and of how great minds think alike, without any planning on our part, my colleague Steve Taranovich wrote about a new IC from Linear Technology (LTC), the LTC3588-1. It's an IC intended to work with a piezo-bender to harvest small amounts of electro-mechanical energy.

LTC suggests usages that sound familiar if you read my other blogs:

  • Wireless HVAC Sensors
  • Mobile Asset Tracking
  • Tire Pressure Sensors
  • Battery Replacement for Industrial Sensors
  • Remote Light Switches

This is considerably more sophisticated than the circuitry that makes your sneakers flash when you run. Here's what it looks like from the outside:

(Source: Linear Technology Corp.)

(Source: Linear Technology Corp.)

And here's what's going on inside:

(Source: Linear Technology Corp.)

(Source: Linear Technology Corp.)

This is a sweet part that can be directly applicable to just what I described before. For more details, check Steve's article on EDN: Piezo-MEMS enables wireless sensor networks.

Related posts:

11 comments on “Harvesting Power From Piezo Transducers

  1. eafpres
    July 5, 2013

    Hi Brad–as you know from my comments I think energy harvesting makes sense for sensors and less sense for other things.  I've also commented that nearly every sensor is inherently analog, and as more and more stuff gets sensors applied (the IoT) there is ongoing need for analog electronics to condition the signals.  My view is that companies like Linear and TI have some really aggressive product managers who have been given free reign to develop products in this area.  The result is that this is a golden era for sensor development, becuase you can develop sensors that use much less power, are more sensitive, and thanks fto self-powered (i.e., by energy harvesting) electronics and wireless interfaces, you can put them almost anywhere.

    Would be interesting to run a poll here on what kinds of sensor projects people are seeing, or something along those lines.  Martin Rowe over at The Connecting Edge ran a poll asking EEs what kinds of Sensors they connect and Temperature won by a wide margin.

  2. Brad Albing
    July 6, 2013

    I'll put together a poll along the lines of what you've suugested. Anyone who wants to toss a few ideas out as comments here, please do that now so that I am sure the poll I create is properly representative.

  3. Netcrawl
    July 7, 2013

    @easpres you're right its a great era for sensors. for the last few years we have witnessed a lot of changes in the world of sensors, they're become much smaller, less expensive and low power, driven in part of Moore's law and MEMS evolution.

    Unfortunately the cost of running sensors has not kept pace, the're getting expensive- the cost would probably the main barrier here. A good example is if you want to move a closest light switch, running a wire for a $1 can cost you about 50 times! the would be $50 mostly on installation and labor, even in some industrial or automation industries- a sensor installation would cost a company about $10,000, and its only a simple switch. We still facing an uphill battle here. 

  4. eafpres
    July 7, 2013

    @Brad “Anyone who wants to toss a few ideas out as comments here, please do that”

    It might be interesting to poll what type of electronics people are seeing built into sensors:

    Analog front end (signal conditioning)

    A/D conversion

    micro-controller

    micro-processor

    system on board

    There are probably more sensible breakdowns so this just food for thought.

  5. eafpres
    July 7, 2013

    @netcrawl–“$1 can cost you about 50 times”

    I think this is an area where self-powered (i.e. through battery, super cap, harvesting, etc.) wireless sensors might really start to have an advantage.  No cabling, no running signal wires all the way back to the control room, no phone lines to the sensor node, etc.

    Once I had a light switch that I really needed in a different place.  It controlled an outlet (this is pretty common construction now–a wall switch controls an outlet for a floor or table lamp).  I bought a battery powered wireless switch that came with receiver that plugged into the outlet, then the lamp plugged into that.  The wireless switch could be mounted anywhere–it was a little thick so not completely elegant but that was 25 years ago.  Much cheaper than trying to pull wire.

  6. Davidled
    July 7, 2013

    As energy harvesting is developed in the electronic area, I expect that there is no more AA or AAA battery pack in any application note of IC vendor. Main concern is to how mch current can be drawn from the harvesting energy in pick time (operating mode) and sleep time of any application.

  7. Brad Albing
    July 7, 2013

    Yep – there's that pesky cost-of-cabling issue that I mentioned before – labor and material for most industrial/transportation applications regarding cabling runs into high costs.

  8. Brad Albing
    July 7, 2013

    @DaeJ – that's the crux of the issue – make your system sleep most of the time, then wake up and do what needs to be done while drawing hardly any power, and then go right back to sleep.

  9. Brad Albing
    July 10, 2013

    That's good. I'll use that plus a little of my own thoughts. There's a poll or two there plus at least one blog.

  10. SunitaT
    July 29, 2013

    Arveni's piezoelectric harvesters are allowing a variety of applications: remote controls, wall switches for home-based automation and building infrastructure, the main adopter of energy harvesting technologies so far. There are also wireless sensor networks, asset tracking GPS/GPRS for industrial applications, condition monitoring sensors etc. The company calls its product a “Pulse Harvester”, as it provides a small amount of electrical energy (up to 2 mJ) in response to a user action such as a push or a twist.

  11. Brad_Albing
    July 29, 2013

    @Sunita – thanks – I'll take a look at their products.

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