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Proceedings Paper

A low complexity wireless microbial fuel cell monitor using piezoresistive sensors and impulse-radio ultra-wide-band
Author(s): M. Crepaldi; A. Chiolerio; T. Tommasi; D. Hidalgo; G. Canavese; S. Stassi; D. Demarchi; F. C. Pirri
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Paper Abstract

Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) are energy sources which generate electrical charge thanks to bacteria metabolism. Although functionally similar to chemical fuel cells (both including reactants and two electrodes, and anode and cathode), they have substantial advantages, e.g. 1) operation at ambient temperature and pressure; 2) use of neutral electrolytes and avoidance of expensive catalysts (e.g. platinum); 3) operation using organic wastes. An MFC can be effectively used in environments where ubiquitous networking requires the wireless monitoring of energy sources. We then report on a simple monitoring system for MFC comprising an ultra-low-power Impulse-Radio Ultra-Wide-Band Transmitter (TX) operating in the low 0-960MHz band and a nanostructured piezoresistive pressure sensor connected to a discrete component digital read-out circuit. The sensor comprises an insulating matrix of polydimethylsiloxane and nanostructured multi-branched copper microparticles as conductive filler. Applied mechanical stress induces a sample deformation that modulates the mean distance between particles, i.e. the current flow. The read-out circuit encodes pressure as a pulse rate variation, with an absolute sensitivity to the generated MFC voltage. Pulses with variable repetition frequency can encode battery health: the pressure sensor can be directly connected to the cells membrane to read excessive pressure. A prototype system comprises two MFCs connected in series to power both the UWB transmitter which consumes 40μW and the read-out circuit. The two MFC generate an open circuit voltage of 1.0±0.1V. Each MFC prototype has a total volume of 0.34L and is formed by two circular Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) chambers (anode and cathode) separated by a cation exchange membrane. The paper reports on the prototype and measurements towards a final solution which embeds all functionalities within a MFC cell. Our solution is conceived to provide energy sources integrating energy management and health monitoring capabilities to sensor nodes which are not connected to the energy grid.

Paper Details

Date Published: 17 May 2013
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 8763, Smart Sensors, Actuators, and MEMS VI, 876311 (17 May 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2017553
Show Author Affiliations
M. Crepaldi, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy)
A. Chiolerio, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy)
T. Tommasi, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy)
D. Hidalgo, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy)
G. Canavese, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy)
S. Stassi, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy)
D. Demarchi, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy)
Politecnico di Torino (Italy)
F. C. Pirri, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy)
Politecnico di Torino (Italy)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8763:
Smart Sensors, Actuators, and MEMS VI
Ulrich Schmid; José Luis Sánchez de Rojas Aldavero; Monika Leester-Schaedel, Editor(s)

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