Battery-free Technology Harvests Energy to Operate Itself

Researchers from MIT invented a device that operates without a battery, plug, or dirty energy. According to Daniel Monagle, MIT graduate student and study lead author, “We have provided an example of a battery-less sensor that does something useful, and shown that it is a practically realizable solution. Now others will hopefully use our framework to get the ball rolling to design their own sensors.”

MIT’s self-powered sensor gathers energy from its environment, making it easy to use in places that are difficult for people to reach. The temperature sensors can run on ambient energy created from the magnetic field surrounding a wire that carries electricity. For example, the sensor could be clipped to the wire that powers a motor, drawing ambient energy to operate. The technology uses simple capacitors to store energy from the electrical field so that the sensors can operate on a cold start instead of a battery. 

MIT’s framework can draw power from other ambient sources, including vibrations and sunlight. The team envisions groups of sensors in factories gauging crucial metrics at a lower installation cost. 

John Donnal, an associate professor of weapons and controls engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy, is following MIT’s progress. “Energy-harvesting systems like this could make it possible to retrofit a wide variety of diagnostic sensors on ships and significantly reduce the overall cost of maintenance,” he said in the MIT report.

1 Comment
  1. Andrew Neil says

    So what have they actually “invented” here?

    “Energy harvesting” has been well established for decades.

    I worked on a project that did exactly as described here (harvest energy from AC power lines) 7 years ago, and that was just a radio update to a well-established market – the harvesting part was not new then!

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