WILLISTON, Vermont, 1 April 2009. MicroStrain Inc. won from the U.S. Navy (NAVAIR) a Phase II SBIR contract to develop a suite of miniature vibro-mechanical energy harvesters for powering wireless sensors on Navy aircraft.
Developments in combining sensors, microprocessors, and radio frequency (RF) communications holds the potential to revolutionize the way we monitor and maintain critical systems, says a company representative. In the future, billions of wireless sensors could be embedded within machines, structures, and the environment, he continues. Sensed information would be automatically collected, compressed, and forwarded for condition-based maintenance.
The U.S. Navy's long-term vision is to deploy distributed wireless sensor networks along with RFIDs to provide a wealth of information about an entire aircraft structure. As the fleet ages, there's an increasing need for embedded wireless strain sensors capable of detecting and tracking accumulated strains --"precursors" to crack initiation, according to the official.
Wireless sensors require energy to operate, and battery maintenance, economic battery replacement, and safe battery disposal are barriers. MicroStrain's miniature energy harvesters are designed to break down these barriers by converting a machine's vibrations into power.
The Navy SBIR Phase II award will provide up to $917,000 over a two-year period.