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Demonstrator System being Deployed on Ferry Engine

This video gives a brief overview of a demonstrator system we have developed for a case study in the marine transport sector.

The project as a whole is looking at the development of vibration energy harvesting sensors, and includes the design of the energy harvester itself through to efficient power conditioning, computation circuits, and the simulation of complete systems. For details of the work carried out in each of the project themes, please feel free to look at their individual videos and publications on the Holistic website.

This diagram shows the architecture of the demonstrator system we have developed, which is being deployed in a real application. As you can see, there are interactions between various modules, which makes it really important to develop the system in a holistic way.

We have worked with Red Funnel, which operates vehicle ferries between Southampton and the Isle of Wight, to define the needs of a real vibration energy harvesting application, and provide a platform to test our new technology.

The vessels use Voith-Schneider propulsion and are powered by a diesel engine at each end of the ferry. These engines are operated at 4 different speeds. Each crossing lasts approximately one hour, and the ferries spend at least 30 minutes idling at each end of the route.

Our project is looking at exploiting the vibration of the engines to power wireless sensors. This means that we can add sensors to the engine without worrying about installing cabling or changing batteries.

The engine room machinery is currently monitored by wired sensors which measure pressures, voltages, and temperatures. This data is displayed on a screen in the engine control room.

This is our vibration energy harvester attached to the side of one of the engines. Normally, vibration energy harvesters only work at fixed frequencies, but the tuning arrangement of our generator means that we can tune to the varying speeds of the engine. As you can see at the bottom of the frame, a motor moves a large magnet which alters the tuning of the generator. When the generator is tuned, the beam resonates and moves magnets repeatedly past a COPPER coil, which produces electricity.

Here, energy is buffered and then used to power a sensor which is reporting wirelessly on the vibration and temperature of the engine. This could help identify the early signs of problems like bearing failure, and means that maintenance could be carried out before the engine actually fails.

This is the first time that a tunable vibration energy harvester has been taken out of the lab and tested in a real application. The success of this system has depended on the holistic approach we have taken to its development.

With thanks to Red Funnel for their assistance with this project.

For more information, please contact Dr Alex Weddell, University of Southampton.
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