MicroGen hones piezoelectric MEMS energy harvester at Cornell

August 17, 2011 — MicroGen Systems Inc. and Infinite Power Solutions Inc. demonstrated a complete Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) powered by their products at this year’s Sensors Expo and Tradeshow. MicroGen’s BOLT 060 micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) -based piezoelectric vibrational energy harvester (PZEH) micro-power generator was combined with the THINERGY IPS-EVAL-EH-01 Energy Harvesting Evaluation Kit from IPS to power-up a complete wireless sensor board. The product is the result of more than a year of development using the nanofabrication tools at the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF).

MicroGen is incubating in the Cornell Business and Technology Park, and is the subject of a profile in the Cornell Chronicle this month.

MicroGen’s BOLT product line is intended to enable low-power electronic devices, such as wireless sensor nodes for wireless sensor network (WSN) applications. The BOLT devices are 1cm2 silicon-based chips or less that produce power levels up to 200 microWatts. These are the first commercial MEMS-based PZEH to be demonstrated at low relevant frequency and acceleration levels. "This is the first time in the world that a commercial company has produced a self-powered wireless sensor node using a MEMS-based energy harvester," MicroGen’s founder, president and CTO, Robert Andosca tells the Cornell Chronicle. Piezoelectric material generates electricity when flexed by a mechanical action (vibration), charging the device’s battery.

The IPS-EVAL-EH-01 is a universal energy harvesting evaluation kit that accepts energy from various energy harvesting transducers (both AC and DC charge sources), and efficiently stores the energy in a THINERGY MEC101 solid-state thin-film micro-energy cell (MEC)

The emerging energy harvesting market will help eliminate the constrant replacement of dead batteries in wireless sensor networks and nodes, Andosca says. An immediate use, according to Andosca, would be in wireless tire pressure monitoring systems required in new automobiles since 2007.

BOLT050, BOLT100, BOLT060 and BOLT120 resonate at vibrational frequencies of 50, 100, 60, and 120 Hz, respectively. A custom BOLT product can be fabricated for any target frequency between 30 and 1,500 Hz.

By 2016, MicroGen will be running an assembly plant employing 40 people, Andosca told the Cornell Chronicle. The start-up originally came to NY because of funding offered by Senator Charles Schumer via the Infotonics Technology Center (Canandaigua, NY). The MEMS technology has been honed at the CNF, particularly in collaboration with R. Bruce van Dover, professor of materials science and engineering.

MicroGen benefits from support provided by The University of Vermont, Cornell University’s Energy Materials Center and New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation, the Cleantech Center, High Tech Rochester, NY State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Learn more at http://www.microgensystems.com

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