Fraunhofer researchers have developed a printed thermogenerator, which in the future will be able to generate energy supply for sensors through temperature differences. More and more frequently wireless sensors are used which consume very low levels of energy and the power required by the sensor, the processing unit and wireless module derives its power directly from the environment instead of “harvesting” energy from batteries Electrical energy can be generated, for instance, from heat or movement.
Thermoelectric and metallic materials are printed to harvest energy.
“Generative manufacturing processes produce both sensors and sensor networks as well as the required elements for energy harvesting such as thermogenerators: By directly depositing functional structures, which have an ink or paste base, using ink-jet, aerosol-jet, screen-printing or dispensing processes, not only can electrical circuit boards and sensor elements be attached to different interfaces but it is also possible to produce structures which harvest energy”, explains Zöllmer. Using a purposeful combination of metallic and thermoelectrical materials which are successively applied, the researchers manufacture structures which can be used as thermoelectrical generators. The major advantage of this is that the printed thermogenerators can be tailored exactly to the technical surfaces. This makes the sensors less susceptible to faults because the energy supply can be adapted directly to the respective requirements.