No battery required, self-powered, MIT develops new sensor

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No battery required, self-powered, MIT develops new sensor

Posted Date: 2024-01-26

Electronic Enthusiast Network reports (Text/Wu Zipeng) Recently, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published a paper stating that the team has developed a battery-free, self-powered sensor that can harvest energy from the environment. Because it doesn't require batteries that have to be recharged or replaced, and doesn't require special wiring, the sensor can be embedded in hard-to-reach places, such as the innards of a ship's engine.

Dr. Steve Lee, co-author of the paper and professor of electrical engineering and computer science and mechanical engineering at MIT, pointed out, "This sensor obtains energy from an ambient power source and does not require additional special devices."

"We provide an example of a battery-free sensor that can do something useful and demonstrate that this is a practical solution," said first author Daniel Monagl, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. solution. Hopefully, others will also be able to leverage our framework to design their own sensors."

MIT's self-powered sensor

According to the paper, the MIT research team designed an environmental sensing device that harvests energy from magnetic fields generated in the open air around wires and then powers temperature sensors without the need for batteries or wired connections.

This self-powered sensor is divided into the following parts: energy harvester, energy storage, power management, sensing circuit and communication module. To avoid the need for batteries, the sensor uses internal energy storage technology, including a series of capacitors. In order to be able to store the energy needed for the device to turn on and start collecting electricity, but small enough, the research team redesigned the capacitor, which does not take too long to fully charge.

At the same time, this sensor has precise control of current - it can continuously sense and control energy flow during operation, and store excess energy for later use. The research team also designed a control algorithm specifically for this purpose, which can dynamically measure and budget the energy collected, stored and used by the device. The microcontroller and algorithm cooperate to become the brain of the entire sensor, mainly responsible for detecting energy and deciding when to turn the sensor on and off.

Source: MIT paper

In order to allow the sensor to use the stored energy to work stably, the MIT research team mainly used ultra-low power circuit design when designing this sensor, and used sophisticated algorithms to control the device to prevent explosion due to excessive collection of energy. For this sensor, the research team believes that one of the future optimization directions is to explore lower-energy means of transmitting data, such as optics or acoustics, to further reduce the energy consumption of the system.

Development of energy harvesting technology

There is no doubt that this MIT sensor is a typical application of energy harvesting technology. Energy harvesting technology harvests energy from the natural environment rather than relying on batteries or other types of generated electricity. There are many types of energy collection. Light energy, temperature difference, vibration, radio frequency (RF) and other energies can all become energy sources.

The collection of magnetic field energy changes is mentioned above. In fact, other types of energy collection are similar. For example, the main principle of temperature difference energy (TEG) collection is the Seebeck effect. The temperature difference in the thermoelectric generator (TEG) can generate an electric potential, thereby converting the waste heat in the heat source into electrical energy. Due to the particularity of the conditions for generating heat energy, it does not need to Like light energy, the amount of energy collected depends entirely on the intensity of light in the environment where the device is located.

According to analysis data from Grand View Research, the global energy collection system market size will be US$646.61 million in 2022 and is expected to reach US$1.5039 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.13% from 2022 to 2030. The growth of the market is mainly driven by the growing applications of IoT, including smart cities, smart homes, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

However, although energy harvesting technology has been proposed for many years, there are still some challenges that need to be overcome. As mentioned in Analog Devices' technical blog post, due to the diversity of energy sources, systems must convert, regulate and control them. In addition, appropriate protection circuits and energy storage units are required to avoid being affected by high voltages or power spikes. Since the energy provided by the energy source is usually very weak, electronic devices must work very efficiently. These challenges are also reflected in MIT's design. These challenges will lead to problems such as the inability to guarantee the accuracy of data collection, difficulty in expanding functions on it, and difficulty in interacting with the device and the platform.

However, the use of IoT devices is still exploding, and the installation of many devices requires innovative technologies such as energy harvesting technology, so it is worthy of continued advancement.


According to Statista statistics, the global IoT market size will reach US$970.22 billion in 2022, and the number of global IoT linked devices will reach 14.3 billion units in 2022. As the number of IoT devices increases, maintenance will be a big challenge. Battery replacement is also a kind of maintenance. Energy harvesting technology can help solve this pain point.

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