Infinite Power Solutions Aids Innovation at MicroStrain for Wireless Monitoring of Rotorcraft Components Using Energy Harvesting

Wed, 11/17/2010 - 6:06am
LITTLETON, Colo., /PRNewswire/ -- Infinite Power Solutions, Inc. (IPS) announced that it has secured a design win for its award-winning THINERGY® solid-state, rechargeable, Micro-Energy Cell (MEC) product with MicroStrain, Inc. IPS' THINERGY MECs have been incorporated into a comprehensive wireless sensor network developed by the Williston, Vt. - based MicroStrain to monitor and manage the health, safety and readiness of rotating helicopter structural components.

The system has been successfully demonstrated aboard a Sikorsky MH-60S helicopter and represents the first successful flight test of an energy harvesting wireless sensor network for military aircraft. This project was sponsored by the U.S. Navy's Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). The goals were to increase safety and rotorcraft component life as well as to significantly reduce rotorcraft operational costs.

  The mechanical rotation of helicopter rotors makes it impossible to add interconnecting wires to provide power and communications between sensors that are used to monitor the structural performance of rotorcraft components.

Slip rings have been used with various levels of success. This drives the need for wireless sensors that can be embedded directly and permanently into the rotorcraft components. To meet this demand, MicroStrain has employed "self-powered" wireless sensor nodes using vibration energy harvesting.

  Vibration energy, which is abundant on board a helicopter, is converted to small pulses of electrical energy and efficiently stored in the THINERGY MEC. Extremely powerful for its size, the tiny MEC is then used to power the sensor electronics, including a radio transmitter for RF communications. Because the MEC can be recharged countless times it doesn't need to be replaced like conventional batteries, allowing the entire wireless sensor node to be deeply embedded for years of maintenance-free operation.

  IPS' THINERGY MECs were selected as the preferred energy storage solution for this system due to their paper-thin form factor (low mass and volume), low current recharge efficiency (enabling recharge via energy harvesting), high discharge rate (supporting the ability to power RF transmissions) and long life.


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