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Scientists Device Mechanism to Use Unused Energy to Power Smart Sensor Networks

The electricity that lights homes and powers home equipment also creates small magnetic fields that are present all around us. Scientists have devised a new mechanism capable of harvesting this wasted magnetic field energy and changing it into enough electrical energy to power next-generation sensor networks for smart factories.

Scientists Devise Mechanism to Use Unused Energy to Power Smart Sensor Networks

A group headed by Penn State scientists developed a device that gives 400% larger power output in comparison with other state-of-the-art technology when working with low-level magnetic fields, like those present in homes and buildings.

The tech has implications for the design of smart buildings, which would require self-powered wireless sensor networks to perform things like monitor energy and operational patterns and remotely control programs, the scientists stated.

Researchers designed paper-thin gadgets, about 1.5 inches long, that may be placed on or close to home equipment, lights, or power cords where the magnetic fields are strongest. These fields shortly dissipate away from the source of flowing electric current, the scientists stated.

When put 4 inches from a space heater, the system produced enough electrical energy to light 180 LED arrays, and at 8 inches, enough to power a digital alarm clock. The scientists reported the findings in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

The scientists used a composite structure, layering two different supplies together. One of these materials is magnetostrictive, which transforms a magnetic field into stress and the other is piezoelectric, which turns stress, or vibrations, into an electric field.

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