Silex funded to develop PZT energy harvest process

December 16, 2013 // By Peter Clarke
MEMS foundry Silex Microsystems AB has been awarded a grant of 5.8 million Swedish Krone (about $1 million) to develop its lead zirconate titanate (PZT) manufacturing capability in support of energy harvesting applications.

PZT is a ceramic perovskite material that is piezoelectric and therefore used in both sensors and actuators. Sweden's SEHPMET project led by Silex (Jarfalla, Sweden), is looking to enable energy harvesting directly from energy harvesting of vibrational energy in the environment. The project includes three organizations: Silex; research institute Acreo; and the Electronic Devices division of the department of Electrical Engineering at Linkoping University.


The overall goal of the project is to research and develop a completely integrated energy-harvesting platform with an initial focus on self-powered vehicular wireless sensor systems for tire pressure, speed, and strain monitoring.


Acreo is responsible for the design, modelling and testing of the piezoMEMS energy harvest component. Linkoping University is designing a power management control system as well as working on a future integrated wireless sensor node. Meanwhile Silex will optimize its existing PZT process for energy harvesting applications and work with partners to fabricate wafer-level encapsulated prototypes.


The total budget for the SEHPMET project is 8.9 million SEK (about $1.4 million) and extends from November of 2013 through early 2016. However work is expected to continue through to 2018 under a larger international collaboration project aiming for the commercialization of the technology with the delivery of a completed prototype sensor system solution. This solution will include the piezo-MEMS harvester, innovative energy storage devices, an on-chip power management system, sensor readout and signal acquisition, digital signal processor, and an on-chip wireless transceiver.


"The explosion of sensor networks needed by the Internet of Things represents a great technical challenge to develop self-powered networks from the ground up," said Thorbjorn Ebefors, chief technology officer at Silix, in a statement. "The goals of SEHPMET will not only strengthen Sweden's ability to address this market, but also deliver working platforms that directly address this emerging need."


Funding for the project is being provided by the Swedish government agency through its Vinnova agency.