1, University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
3, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, United States
4, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
The Internet of Things (IoT), coupled with advanced analytics, is poised to revolutionize manufacturing maintenance and efficiency. However, a practical route to powering these many IoT devices remains unclear. In this work, flexible thermoelectric generators (TEGs) were fabricated from low cost, screen printed silver and nickel inks before being integrated into a novel radial form factor device based on commercial steam pipe insulation. Through improved matching of internal resistances and series/parallel design, this 420-junction TEG device produced 308 µW of power at a temperature difference of 127 K. This was sufficient to power a temperature sensing circuit with wireless communication capabilities. We have demonstrated that, after an initial 4 hours of charging, the TEG device could power a standard RFduino microcontroller for 10 minutes while sending temperature readings every 30 seconds via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to a cell phone. Additional optimization and scaling could further increase system efficiency and provide a viable route to powering an industrial wireless sensing network (WSN).