With the latest advancements in sensor technologies, modern buildings are now equipped with sensors to monitor the “health” of a building; everything from ventilation systems and water temperature to seismic activity. These sensors are used to prevent problems and even enable data-driven decision making in emergency situations. There are two conventional ways to power these sensor solutions: expensive conductive wiring and batteries. Running wires for a low-power sensor is traditionally the most reliable method, but wires breakdown over time and need to be replaced. Replacing these wires can be expensive, especially if the sensors are embedded in walls or large ventilation systems. Sensors equipped with batteries require human interaction, and therefore are limited in where they can be placed so that they can be easily accessed. Many of the systems that need to be monitored are not easily accessed. In buildings such as hospitals or industrial plants, maintenance of such sensors via humans can be difficult due to the staff shortage or safety requirements.
A solution to this problem is RF (Radio Frequency) wireless charging. With wireless charging, sensor can be embedded inside walls or pipes. Since there is no human interaction needed, sensors can be placed in hazardous environments. In addition, sensors can be sealed so that dirt or water does not possess danger to the sensitive electronics. Sensor systems are also low-power, so energy can be “transmitted” over longer distances with less worry about losses in efficiency. Applications for RF wireless sensor systems goes beyond just monitoring industrial equipment, however. With a low cost-to-manufacture, these wireless sensor platforms could be used in commercial buildings to monitor activity in a room and adjust lighting, or they could be used in residential homes to monitor temperatures in each room and cool the structure more efficiently.
At UPEL, we are building on the work of other universities to develop more efficient RF wireless energy transfer systems. Traditional systems suffer because of low-gain antennas. We are aiming to increase the antenna gain from 6dBi to 15dBi or higher. Using innovative antenna design techniques, we hope to combat the deficiencies typically seen on similar systems. The utility of electromagnetic resonance is one of the driving principles in our research, and has proven to increase efficiency in all types of Wireless Power Transfer systems, from RF to high-power vehicle charging systems.