Navy awards contract for energy harvesters

The Navy has awarded a small-business innovation research contract to MicroStrain Inc. to develop a technology that can power wireless sensors on the service's aircraft.

The technology company, based in Willston, Vt., will build miniature vibro-mechanical energy harvesters to power the sensors, company officials said April 1. The two-year SBIR Phase II award is potentially worth $917,000, the officials said.

MicroStrain’s miniature energy harvesters function by converting a machine’s vibrations into power. Wireless sensors need energy to operate. Battery maintenance, replacement and disposal are currently barriers to continuous sensor operation. For this reason, the Navy wants energy harvesters such as the one MicroStrain is developing to power the sensors.

Development of wireless sensors and associated technologies is part of long-term strategy by the service to eventually create distributed wireless sensor networks that will provide key information about all aspects of an aircraft’s structure for safety and maintenance. This would be accomplished by deploying the wireless sensor networks together with radio-frequency identification tags.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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