Battery-Less Sensor: a sustainable approach to the Internet of Things

We live in a world that ever changes at vertiginous speed in which more and more objects are connected to the Internet and interact with each other without human intervention.
Proyecto Battery-Less Sensor

The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing how companies in every sector operate, manage and produce. We advance towards a more intelligent industry where all machinery is connected, and organizations can detect possible irregularities in real-time while measuring process performance. 

Battery-Less Sensor is funded by the Ministry for Industry, Commerce, and Tourism’s line of Innovative Business Groups. Projects like this focus on making progress towards the so-called connected industry. Battery-Less sensor is an IoT initiative developed by Valoriza Medioambiente, a Sacyr company, in collaboration with startup Alternative Energy Innovations (AEInnova) and coordinated by the Cluster de l’Energia Eficient de Catalunya (CEEC).

Battery-Less Sensor is a project that consists of using residual heat present in processes as a power source for new-generation wireless sensors with no need for batteries. This way, these devices measure temperature and vibration levels in industrial processes or monitor rotative machines to facilitate predictive maintenance, avoiding stopping production and creating early alerts of potential machine failures in industrial processes. The project encompasses power generation, obtaining, analyzing, and visualizing data: creating alarms to help prevent unforeseen events that might lead to an unexpected stoppage.

Currently, we monitor machines through solutions that work by wired sensors or require batteries. These methods demand a serious investment. Besides the economic cost, batteries present a massive environmental issue, as they are mostly produced with cobalt and lithium, which are scarce materials. Batteries also contain environmentally harmful heavy metals like mercury, lead, and cadmium. By the end of their life cycle, batteries are hazardous waste due to their high toxicity, inflammability, and reactivity levels. 

Solutions like “Battery-Less Sensor” are the alternative; devices powered by energy harvesting from industrial residual heat. Around 21% of residual heat power is wasted every year in the European industry. Likewise, research shows that we could retrieve around 336.9TWh of energy.

Battery-Less Sensor is in total alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and it contributes to improving the sector, sustainability, economy, and society in general. 
As of today, we have carried out pilot projects based on this solution to demonstrate the devices functioning in low-temperature conditions and isolated machines. However, these pilots face some technical challenges.


Battery-Less Sensor pilots

We executed these pilots in a few of our industrial plants: 
- Chiloeches out-of-use tires plant: installation of vibration and temperature monitoring system powered by thermal energy in a rasper grinder, which is vital for the functioning of the Chiloeches (Guadalajara) plant, as an unprogrammed stoppage would put production on hold. Monitoring is the outset of a predictive maintenance protocol. This case poses a significant challenge due to the temperature of the machinery (50 ºC or 122 ºF).
- Cirtec’s additive plant for asphalt mixtures: installation of vibration and temperature monitoring system in two reactors of the Cirtec plant. Temperatures in this plant are so high that go higher than 150 ºC (302 ºF), which requires the thermoelectric generator to adapt to highly variable temperature ranges. 

These pilots determine the system’s viability in other sector companies, proving that performance is enough to fulfill the machine’s requirements and develop a predictive maintenance plan. The following steps should integrate the data and alarm system into the current plant system to facilitate data analysis, making it more useful and making a system deployment to digitalize machines that we currently cannot monitor.  

Battery-Less Sensor aims to become a role model in the 4.0 industry as an alternative to current solutions (wired or battery powered), minimizing economic costs and eliminating environmental impact, in line with our commitment to the environment. 

Additionally, setting this project in motion reinforces our bet on promoting and backing collaboration with the innovation community to identify and boost new ideas that contribute to making a better, more sustainable world.

  • Energy
  • Sustainability
  • IOT

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