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Energy Harvesting and Wireless Power Transfer for Autonomous Sensors

Prof. Manel Gasulla


Universitat Politènica de Catalunya, BarcelonaTech, Spain




Autonomous sensors are wireless measurement systems used in multiple applications from healthcare to environmental monitoring. A large number of autonomous sensors still rely on primary batteries for their power supply. However, primary batteries have to be replaced when depleted, which can be unpractical or even unfeasible. A proposed alternative, not exempt of challenges, is to harvest the energy from the surrounding environment or to transmit it wirelessly form a nearby point. Examples of ambient energy sources are light, thermal gradients, or vibrations, whereas energy can be transmitted via antennas and inductive links.

This tutorial first presents a general overview of the basic building blocks that compose an energy harvesting system and design rules to take into account. Then, different types of energy transducers, conditioning circuits, and storage devices are introduced. Finally, research carried out at the ISI (Instrumentation, Sensors and Interfaces) Group, UPC, is presented. Research topics include hybrid storage systems, maximum power point trackers (MPPTs) applied to low-power solar cells, inductive power transfer, and radiofrequency energy transmission.

Biographical Information

Manel Gasulla received the Enginyer (MEng) and Doctor Enginyer (PhD) degrees in Telecommunication from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC, BarcelonaTech), Barcelona, in 1992 and 1999, respectively. Since 1993 he has been with the UPC, where he is an associate professor, engaged in teaching on Analog and Power Electronics and Electronic Instrumentation. During the academic year 2001-2002 he was a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Electronic Instrumentation Laboratory, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. His research interests include capacitive sensors, sensor interfaces, wireless sensor networks, and energy harvesting circuits and methods for low-power autonomous sensors. He is co-author of several academic papers in international conferences and journals, five Spanish patents, one chapter of the book Energy Harvesting. Grundlagen und Praxis energieautarker Systeme (Essen: Expert-Verlag, 2007) and the book Powering Autonomous Sensors (Springer, 2011).
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