Miniaturized Thermal Harvesting System

Period of Performance: 10/29/2008 - 10/29/2010


Phase 2 STTR

Recipient Firm

Luna Innovations, Inc.
301 1st St Suite 200
Roanoke, VA 24011
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Research Institution

Research Triangle Institute
3040 Cornwallis
Research Triangle Pk, NC 27709
Institution POC


The Air Force has an immediate need for powering remote wireless sensor networks (WSN) on aircraft platforms. These WSN systems are needed for monitoring engine emissions/conditions, evaluating structural integrity, and supplying remote sensing capabilities in support of ongoing battlefield activities. However, aircraft sensors are generally inaccessible and frequent battery replacement or scheduled maintenance is unacceptable. To meet this concern, an approach to harvest electrical energy from the in-situ surroundings is needed. Present miniaturized WSN systems require on the order of 1-10 mW and have a 5-10 year life span. To date commercially available thermoelectric devices are capable of providing on the order of 10 mW/cm2. An approach that increases this amount by an order of magnitude is desired. Luna Innovations and RTI propose to develop a high efficiency thermoelectric energy harvesting device which scavenges energy from ambient thermal gradients. RTIs expertise in thermoelectric conversion and Lunas proven ultra-low power wireless sensors will provide a robust solution capable of operating unattended for several years. BENEFIT: This research will have many different commercial applications. Applications include but are not limited to powering remote sensing for automotive exhaust emissions and the soon to be mandated pressure sensing in tires. There are also many industrial applications where wireless instrumentation sensors, like the ones manufactured by Luna Innovations, could significantly reduce costs, and providing a long term power solution without having to continually replace the power supply would further reduce maintenance costs.