Fraunhofer IPM develops thermoelectric wireless sensors, which operate without batteries or wiring: They obtain the energy needed from the ambient temperature differences. Thermoelectric generators provide sufficient energy to supply various sensors including their radio units, which transmit the measurement results to a central unit.
Once in place, they build an energy-autarkic intelligent sensor network. With the example of the »communicating coffee pot«, scientists from Fraumhofer IPM demonstrated this principle successfully: The pot sends information to a PC, as soon as level and temperature are sinking, without any power supply.
Energy autarkic TE Sensors can be used especially in inaccessible sites - in aircraft, high-rise buildings, power stations, wind power converters or chemical plants, yet also for transporting hazardous goods by road, rail or sea. Thermoelectrically driven sensors might also be implemented for wireless monitoring of body functions.
Scientists at the institute are working on a sensor network to monitor material fatigue in aircraft. Here the aim is to detect any cracks or deformation in the aircraft fuselage in good time. The sensors are affixed once only, like an intelligent plaster, in the shell of the aircraft and from that point on are entirely self-sufficient in supplying themselves with energy – by exploiting the thermoelectric effect.