PowerMEMS Project - Microsystems for power generation

News & events

Speed record:
1.2 million rpm on air bearings
Press release: 6 May 2010
On national television: VTM evening news, 7 May 2010
More detailed and scientific info
PowerMEMS 2010 The 10th International Workshop on Micro and Nanotechnology for Power Generation and Energy Conversion Applications
Date: 30 Nov - 3 Dec 2010
Venue: Leuven (Belgium), University Hall
Final project workshop Date: 12 September 2008
Venue: Auditorium Snoeys, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Celestijnenlaan 300, B-3001 Leuven.

Stating the "power" problem

Miniaturisation, portability and more in general ubiquitous intelligence are strong drivers in technology development. The development of body networks, mobile and wireless computing, vision-based telecom has largely emphasised the need for performant wireless telecommunication protocols in combination with decentralised processing units. The power requirements of such systems or even the concept of ubiquitous power generation have received much less attention and in most cases come down to a traditional concept of battery-operated electronics.

The increasing demands for portable electronics in conjunction with the interest in zero-emission vehicles generated important improvements in battery performance over the last decade just think of the leaps from NiCd to NiMH and Li-Ion in notebook batteries. On the other hand are these batteries far from "clean" in environmental terms. Also, the energy density of even the most performing batteries is about 100 times less than that of fuel based systems.

What to do about this? One trend is to make the electronics less power-hungry, others try to make fuel-based systems typically on hydrogen. This also explains the enormous interest in fuel cells as they directly convert fuel-based chemical energy in electricity.

The powerMEMS project

The powerMEMS project aims the development of a technology for replacing rechargeable batteries in a wide range of applications. The proposed technology is based on power scavenging systems ranging from a few W till the mW range and from the other side fuel based systems ranging from a few W to ultimately a kW.

Scavenger systems

In order to cope with the "power" problem some electronics became so power efficient that they can operate on so-called "scavenged" energy, for instance thermal or kinetic energy available in the environment and converted by a dedicated microsystem.

A first objective of powerMEMS is therefore the development of a power scavenging system capturing environmental energy and converting it into electricity. The system should generate from 100 W up to 1 mW in optimal conditions. The dimensions should be in the order of 2-4 mm laterally and 0.5-1 mm high.

Fuel-based systems

If you anyhow need more power, fuel based systems can bring a solution. The second objective of powerMEMS is the development of a fuel-based power generation system, based on a micro gasturbine. The system has a total diameter of 100 mm is 110 mm long and consists of a compressor, combustion chamber, turbine and compressor. It has a power output in the order of 1 kW.

Reply on content: Jan.Peirs at Copyright 2005 Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Department of Mechanical Engineering