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Integrated Energy

Fraunhofer research develops energy-efficient sensor networks

Individually they consume hardly any electricity, but en masse they do: Sensors in Industry 4.0. Ten Fraunhofer Institutes are working together on new, energy-efficient hardware components.

18 Apr. 2018
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Fraunhofer research develops energy-efficient sensor networks (Photo: Fraunhofer Mikroelektronik)

The project is called ZePoWel (Towards Zero Power Electronics), because a completely energy self-sufficient sensor is the objective in the long term. The consortium pursues two paths . On the one hand, the aim is for the sensors themselves to consume less power and for data communication to be more economical, on the other. For example, the Fraunhofer researchers are developing a wake-up receiver that only “wakes” a sensor node from standby to turn into a sender when a certain threshold is exceeded or an external command is received. The planned increase in energy efficiency compared to existing wireless solutions is quantified by the ZephoEner engineers by a factor of 1000. The program also includes a measuring amplification system that promises more accurate data with less energy consumption.

To make sure the sensor technology works without any power, ZePoWel is working on a broadband harvester that “harvests” 5 x 5 mm² of energy from the environment and stores it in a newly developed thin-film battery. Battery, harvester, and energy converter form a single, compact system. Overall, the Fraunhofer collaborative research project is pursuing a modular approach that should result in industrial solutions for a large number of applications.