A wireless vibration sensor being developed by a Victoria University student could provide a low-cost solution for engineers to monitor the damage of buildings affected by earthquakes – and, more impressively, harnesses the kinetic energy generated by the tremors in order to power itself.
Daniel Tomicek has been working on the innovative device – designed to be placed at several locations around a building to monitor the stress sustained by different areas during an earthquake – as part of his final year research project.
It also uses the energy of the building’s movement during an earthquake to power itself, measuring the acceleration of the movement, and transmitting information in the form of data packets to an off-site computer. The greater the vibrations, the greater the energy harvested and the more data packets that are sent.
The data can then be used by engineers to help assess the extent of damage to the building.
Currently, no sensor exists in the marketplace that doesn’t rely on batteries or electricity supply to run, he says.
Tomicek has been testing the sensor’s capabilities at Te Papa’s Earthquake House in its Awesome Forces exhibit, where the device monitored ‘earthquakes’ at the house over the course of a week.
“Testing at the Earthquake House was a real success. The device managed to sense each earthquake and send packets of information for each one.”
He says he was inspired to create a kinetic sensor after a friend worked on a similar project during a summer research scholarship at Victoria University.
He had also heard about applications being developed in Europe, where special springs added to dance floors in nightclubs can harness an electrical current generated by the movement of dancers, which is then stored in batteries and used to run devices.
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