Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) have existed for many years and had assimilated many interesting innovations. Advances in electronics, radio transceivers, processes of IC manufacturing and development of algorithms for operation of such networks now enable creating energy-efficient devices that provide practical levels of performance and a sufficient number of features. Environmental monitoring is one of the areas in which WSNs can be successfully used. At the same time this is a field where devices must either bring their own power reservoir, such as a battery, or scavenge energy locally from some natural phenomena. Improving the efficiency of energy harvesting methods reduces complexity of WSN structures. This survey is based on practical examples from the real world and provides an overview of state-of-the-art methods and techniques that are used to create energyefficient WSNs with energy harvesting.
The present work focuses on a first study for a piezoelectric harvesting system, finalized to the obtaining of electrical energy from the kinetic energy of rainy precipitation, a renewable energy source not really considered until now. The system, after the realization, can be collocated on the roof of an house, configuring a “Piezo Roof Harvesting System”. After presenting a state of art of the harvesting systems from environmental energy, linked to vibrations, using piezoelectric structures, and of piezoelectric harvesting systems functioning with rain, the authors propose an analysis of the fundamental features of rainy precipitations for the definition of the harvesting system. Then, four key patterns for the realization of a piezoelectric energy harvesting system are discussed and analysed, arriving to the choice of a cantilever beam scheme, in which the piezoelectric material works in 31 mode. An electro-mechanical model for the simulation of performance of the unit for the energetic conversion, composed of three blocks, is proposed. The model is used for a simulation campaign to perform the final choice of the more suitable piezoelectric unit, available on the market, which will be adopted for the realization of the “Piezo Roof Harvesting System”.
An optimized method of vibration Energy Harvesting is based on a step-down transformer that regulates the power flow from the piezoelectric element to the desired electronic load. Taking into account parameters of the whole system, the “optimal” voltage gain the piezoelectric transformer can be determined where the harvested power is maximized for the actual level of mechanical excitation. Consequently the piezoelectric transformers can be used to boost up the conversion of mechanical strain into electrical power with considerable potential in Energy Harvesting applications. Nowadays however, the most important factor is usage of lead free material for its construction. Additional desired parameters of such ceramics include high value of piezoelectric coefficients, low dielectric losses and reasonable power density. This work for first time proposes a lead free K0.5Na0.5NbO3 (KNN) material implementation for stack type of piezoelectric transformer that is designed for load efficiency optimization of vibration energy harvester.