Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Autonomous energy-scavenging micro devices will test water quality, monitor bridges, more

Date:
June 13, 2013
Source:
SPIE
Summary:
Researchers are using photonics in their quest to "bring the lab to the sample," developing sophisticated micro instruments that scavenge power from sunlight, body heat, or other sources, for uses such as monitoring water quality or assessing bridge safety.

Battery-operated sugar-cube-size microplasma: the microplasma fits inside the letter "A" of a one-cent coin (for scale); sample is introduced into the chamber to the right.
Credit: Image courtesy of

Out in the wilds or anywhere off the grid, sophisticated instruments small enough to fit in a shirt pocket will one day scavenge power from sunlight, body heat, or other sources to monitor water quality or bridge safety, enabling analysis in the field rather than bringing samples and data back to the lab.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario are using optics and photonics in their quest to "bring the lab to the sample," said lead researcher Vassili Karanassios, director of the university's Institute for Nanotechnology. A major aspect of his team's solution, reported in a conference and publication by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is scavenging energy from various sources to power instruments at the sample site.

While energy harvesting utilizes sources such as wind power, energy scavenging involves re-using discarded energy, such as the electric light that runs a calculator, Karanassios said.

The team is incorporating wake-up systems in the devices to support energy autonomy, the ability to be powered as needed without an external source, without losing selectivity, the ability to gather and accurately analyze relevant data.

An important feature of his lab's approach is the integration of several features of full-scale laboratory instruments.

"People have experimented with sensors and with lab-on-a-chip devices for a long time," Karanassios said. "But taking an entire instrument to the field in a hand-held device is new. Not many research groups have the expertise to integrate it all, to go from the sensor level to the micro-instrument level."

The team is also working to reduce the power required for miniature instruments that perform optical emission spectrometry -- using light to generate the spectral patterns that are intrinsically unique to materials -- with very small samples. The resulting spectral "signature" is used to identify what is in the sample, for example, in on-site monitoring of water quality.

Among power source optics, sunlight is one obvious answer, Karanassios said, but limited by clouds and brief daylight in some regions. Additional possible sources and applications for energy scavenging are:

  • Plugging in to human body heat, unobtrusively scavenging energy in the form of otherwise-wasted heat generated by a person while walking, to power instruments for testing water quality or wearable biomedical monitors.
  • Harnessing animal body heat, to recharge implanted tracking devices. "When tagging and tracking animals in the wild, you do not want to have to catch the same animal one more time just to replace the battery that powers its sensors," Karanassios noted.
  • Charging up a bridge sensor using mechanical energy generated in a spring-loaded device in the road, activated by vehicles crossing the bridge.

Because smaller sensors and instruments require less power, Karanassios' lab is working toward "shirt-pocket size" micro-instruments that eventually will deliver performance comparable to full-size lab versions.

They have experimented with a device the size of sugar cube that can be used along with a portable spectrometer for rapid screening of environmental contaminants, using spectral lines generated by wavelengths in the visible light and ultraviolet regions.

A paper detailing the work by Karanassios and Waterloo colleagues Donghyun Lee and Gurjit Dulai was published 28 May in the SPIE Digital Library, and presented in a conference on Energy Harvesting and Storage at SPIE defense, securit, and sensing meeting DSS 2013 last month in Baltimore. Titled "Survey of energy harvesting and energy scavenging approaches for on-site powering of wireless sensor- and microinstrument-networks," the paper is available via open access through 31 August 2013.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by SPIE. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. D. Lee, G. Dulai, Vassili Karanassios. Survey of energy harvesting and energy scavenging approaches for on-site powering of wireless sensor- and microinstrument-networks. SPIE Proceedings, 2013 DOI: 10.1117/12.2016238

Cite This Page:

SPIE. "Autonomous energy-scavenging micro devices will test water quality, monitor bridges, more." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130613153343.htm>.
SPIE. (2013, June 13). Autonomous energy-scavenging micro devices will test water quality, monitor bridges, more. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130613153343.htm
SPIE. "Autonomous energy-scavenging micro devices will test water quality, monitor bridges, more." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130613153343.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

AP (July 18, 2014) The Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons to discover deposits under the ocean floor by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine through waters shared by endangered whales and turtles. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Newsy (July 18, 2014) The wreckage of the German submarine U-166 has become clearly visible for the first time since it was discovered in 2001. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Reuters - US Online Video (July 17, 2014) President Barak Obama stopped by at a lunch counter in Delaware before making remarks about boosting the nation's infrastructure. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

TheStreet (July 16, 2014) Oil Futures are bouncing back after tumbling below $100 a barrel for the first time since May yesterday. Jeff Grossman is the president of BRG Brokerage and trades at the NYMEX. Grossman tells TheStreet the Middle East is always a concern for oil traders. Oil prices were pushed down in recent weeks on Libya increasing its production. Supply disruptions in Iraq fading also contributed to prices falling. News from China's economic front showing a growth for the second quarter also calmed fears on its slowdown. Jeff Grossman talks to TheStreet's Susannah Lee on this and more on the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins