Harvesting electrical energy from a data bus

A switching circuit diverts excess power within a communications bus for use elsewhere without disrupting the normal operation of the bus

Energy Electronics

Imagine covertly harvesting energy from the signals sent through a data bus on an electronics circuit! Or maybe you just need to add an electrical fault-finder device or a software routine to your system, and you don’t have the available electrical power or adding a new source doesn’t project a reasonable return on investment. A Navy lab’s prototyped energy harvesting technology may be “The One” for you!

In operation, a switching circuit connects between two network nodes of a data bus and under predetermined rules, the system selectively redirects the signal to the second subsystem, the energy harvester. The system harvests the whole signal for a very short amount of time, introducing errors on the packet level, which are corrected through redundancy, retransmission or some type of error-correcting scheme already designed into the data bus.

Energy harvesting techniques have traditionally leveraged solar, thermal, wind, and kinetic sources. Such approaches have proved valuable in running remote sensor systems, providing heat and power to off-grid structures, and powering RF communications towers. Such approaches also tend to carry relatively high capital costs and ongoing maintenance expense.

Organizations dealing with distributed mission-critical electronics are especially challenged to improve their functionality without adding additional cost and risk, as their power requirements grow. So, how about leveraging energy off of the bits of data flowing through your data bus?

As demonstrated through experimentation, energy is harvested in such a way that minimizes the impact on the host data bus, as measured by the packet completion rate.  This allows a system architect to either design-for and add-in self-sustaining power to other applications, such as embedded diagnostics, without adding new power infrastructure requirements, and without degrading the overall functionality of the data bus.

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