Design of an electromagnetic vibration energy harvester for structural health monitoring of bridges employing wireless sensor networks

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2011-08

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Abstract

Energy harvesting is playing an increasingly important role in supplying power to monitoring and automation systems such as structural health monitoring using wireless sensor networks. This importance is most notable when the structures to be monitored are in rural, hazardous, or limited access environments such as busy highway bridges where traffic would be greatly disrupted during maintenance, inspection, or battery replacement. This thesis provides an overview of energy harvesting technologies and details the design, prototyping, testing, and simulation of an energy harvester which converts the vibrations of steel highway bridges into stored electrical energy through the use of a translational electromagnetic generator, to power a wireless sensor network for bridge structural health monitoring. An analysis of bridge vibrations, the use of nonlinear and linear harvester compliance, resonant frequency tuning, and bandwidth widening to maximize the energy harvested is presented. The design approach follows broad and focused background research, functional analysis, broad and focused concept generation and selection, early prototyping, parametric modeling and simulation, rapid prototyping with selective laser sintering, and laboratory testing with replicated bridge vibration. The key outcomes of the work are: a breadth of conceptual designs, extensive literature review, a prototype which harvests an average of 80µW under bridge vibration, a prototype which provides quick assembly, mounting and tuning, and the conclusion that a linear harvester out performs a nonlinear harvester with stiffening magnetic compliance for aperiodic vibrations such as those from highway bridges.

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