An embedded, wireless-energy-harvesting platform (E-WEHP) for powering sensors using existing, ambient, wireless signals present in the air

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Vyas, Rushi J.
Tentzeris, Emmanouil M.
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The objective of this research is to develop an embedded, wireless, energy-harvesting prototype (E-WEHP) that can power on and sustain embedded sensing functions using the power present in ambient wireless signals in urban areas. This research is part of a bigger effort towards greening RF circuits and applications in order to reduce their pollution foot-print. Pollution due to modern electronics is primarily caused by non-biodegradable packaging waste and batteries that form a big part of most electronics. Electronic waste can especially be a nuisance in RFID and wireless sensors that are mass-produced and widely-used in consumer items, buildings, industries, agriculture and transportation. The first part of this research effort addresses the issue of minimizing electronic packaging waste by characterizing and using biodegradable substrates such as Paper and Perfluoropolymer (PFA) as a dielectric material in RF circuits. Towards this goal, the first of its kind active wireless sensor modules made of biodegradable paper substrate using a clean and novel inkjet-printing technology is developed and successfully operated in the 900 MHz free ISM band. The second and third part of this research effort addresses the issue of battery waste by investigating the use of ambient solar and wireless radiation for powering RF and embedded electronics for wireless localization and sensing applications without the use of batteries. The second part of this work presents a unique solar-powered tag called SOLTAG that combines solar cells along with an RFID-type powering mechanism to implement a very low-cost, battery-less, semi-passive wireless-tag but with a much longer range than passive EPC-Gen2 RFID tags. A GPS-like, low-cost, vehicle-tracking system based on a received-signal-strength-indication method using SOLTAGs in vehicles and a wireless network of Mica-motes is successfully developed and tested with accuracy down to 1.62 meters The third and main part of this research work presents a novel embedded-wireless-energy-harvesting-prototype (E-WEHP) that can successfully power-on and sustain sensing and M2M peripherals in a 16-bit microcontroller using the power present in ambient, wireless, Digital-TV signals without the use of batteries. This work involves an in-depth characterization of OFDM signals used in Digital-TV broadcasts in Tokyo and Atlanta along with the design and development of the E-WEHP hardware and firmware that exploits the multi-carrier nature of such TV signals for powering itself at a range of over 6 km from the TV broadcast sources. This work opens up the possibility of pervasively powering sensor motes for applications such as environmental sensing, smart homes, structural health monitoring, security and internet of things without the environmental and logistical cost of periodic battery replacement and disposal.
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