July 10, 2018 Volume 14 Issue 26

Electrical/Electronic News & Products

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AI development kit for multi-camera products

The QCS6490 Vision-AI Development Kit from Avnet enables engineering teams to rapidly prototype hardware, application software, and AI enablement for multi-camera, high-performance, Edge AI-enabled custom embedded products. The kit facilitates design with the new, energy-efficient MSC SM2S-QCS6490 SMARC compute module based on the Qualcomm QCS6490 processor. Provides support for up to four MIPI CSI cameras and concurrent Mini DisplayPort and MIPI DSI displays.
Learn more.


High-temp cabinet cooler keeps incineration process in business

An EXAIR client company handles waste treatment on a large ship by operating an incinerator. The area where the incinerator is located gets very hot (over 120° F). This causes failures in the electronics package used to control the incineration process. Since compressed air is readily available, EXAIR's Model HT4225 Cabinet Cooler System is being used to keep the panel cool. It saved the customer from having to replace their control units due to the hot conditions in the incinerator room. Thermostat control is also available, conserving air and operating only when needed to minimize air consumption.
Learn about EXAIR's huge selection of Cabinet Coolers.


Compact snap-in capacitors for general-purpose applications

TDK's new EPCOS B43659 series of snap-in aluminum electrolytic capacitors is the next generation of ultra-compact, general-purpose components for voltages of 450 V (DC) featuring an extremely high CV product. It provides the same features and serves the same applications as the previous series but is much more compact. These RoHS-compliant capacitors can be used in a wide range of applications, such as switched-mode power supplies, frequency converters, UPS, medical equipment, and solar inverters.
Get all the specs.


Conductive Brush Ring overcomes current leakage in EV powertrains

SKF's new Conductive Brush Ring paves the way to greater reliability and longer life in high-performance electric vehicle powertrain systems. Using pure carbon fiber bristles, it provides a reliable electrical connection between an EV eAxle rotor shaft and its housing. When used in combination with SKF Hybrid ceramic ball bearings, it helps to alleviate parasitic current effects that can lead to premature failure in bearings and other components. Available in different configurations for wet (oil-lubricated) motor designs -- and soon for dry (sealed) applications.
Learn more.


Intro to reed switches, magnets, magnetic fields

This brief introductory video on the DigiKey site offers tips for engineers designing with reed switches. Dr. Stephen Day, Ph.D. from Coto Technology gives a solid overview on reed switches -- complete with real-world application examples -- and a detailed explanation of how they react to magnetic fields.
View the video.


Bi-color LEDs to light up your designs

Created with engineers and OEMs in mind, SpectraBright Series SMD RGB and Bi-Color LEDs from Visual Communi-cations Company (VCC) deliver efficiency, design flexibility, and control for devices in a range of industries, including mil-aero, automated guided vehicles, EV charging stations, industrial, telecom, IoT/smart home, and medical. These 50,000-hr bi-color and RGB options save money and space on the HMI, communicating two or three operating modes in a single component.
Learn more.


All about slip rings: How they work and their uses

Rotary Systems has put together a really nice basic primer on slip rings -- electrical collectors that carry a current from a stationary wire into a rotating device. Common uses are for power, proximity switches, strain gauges, video, and Ethernet signal transmission. This introduction also covers how to specify, assembly types, and interface requirements. Rotary Systems also manufactures rotary unions for fluid applications.
Read the overview.


Seifert thermoelectric coolers from AutomationDirect

Automation-Direct has added new high-quality and efficient stainless steel Seifert 340 BTU/H thermoelectric coolers with 120-V and 230-V power options. Thermoelectric coolers from Seifert use the Peltier Effect to create a temperature difference between the internal and ambient heat sinks, making internal air cooler while dissipating heat into the external environment. Fans assist the convective heat transfer from the heat sinks, which are optimized for maximum flow.
Learn more.


EMI shielding honeycomb air vent panel design

Learn from the engineering experts at Parker how honeycomb air vent panels are used to help cool electronics with airflow while maintaining electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding. Topics include: design features, cell size and thickness, platings and coatings, and a stacked design called OMNI CELL construction. These vents can be incorporated into enclosures where EMI radiation and susceptibility is a concern or where heat dissipation is necessary. Lots of good info.
Read the Parker blog.


What is 3D-MID? Molded parts with integrated electronics from HARTING

3D-MID (three-dimensional mechatronic integrated devices) technology combines electronic and mechanical functionalities into a single, 3D component. It replaces the traditional printed circuit board and opens up many new opportunities. It takes injection-molded parts and uses laser-direct structuring to etch areas of conductor structures, which are filled with a copper plating process to create very precise electronic circuits. HARTING, the technology's developer, says it's "Like a PCB, but 3D." Tons of possibilities.
View the video.


Loss-free conversion of 3D/CAD data

CT CoreTech-nologie has further developed its state-of-the-art CAD converter 3D_Evolution and is now introducing native interfaces for reading Solidedge and writing Nx and Solidworks files. It supports a wide range of formats such as Catia, Nx, Creo, Solidworks, Solidedge, Inventor, Step, and Jt, facilitating smooth interoperability between different systems and collaboration for engineers and designers in development environments with different CAD systems.
Learn more.


Top 5 reasons for solder joint failure

Solder joint reliability is often a pain point in the design of an electronic system. According to Tyler Ferris at ANSYS, a wide variety of factors affect joint reliability, and any one of them can drastically reduce joint lifetime. Properly identifying and mitigating potential causes during the design and manufacturing process can prevent costly and difficult-to-solve problems later in a product lifecycle.
Read this informative ANSYS blog.


Advanced overtemp detection for EV battery packs

Littelfuse has introduced TTape, a ground-breaking over-temperature detection platform designed to transform the management of Li-ion battery systems. TTape helps vehicle systems monitor and manage premature cell aging effectively while reducing the risks associated with thermal runaway incidents. This solution is ideally suited for a wide range of applications, including automotive EV/HEVs, commercial vehicles, and energy storage systems.
Learn more.


Benchtop ionizer for hands-free static elimination

EXAIR's Varistat Benchtop Ionizer is the latest solution for neutralizing static on charged surfaces in industrial settings. Using ionizing technology, the Varistat provides a hands-free solution that requires no compressed air. Easily mounted on benchtops or machines, it is manually adjustable and perfect for processes needing comprehensive coverage such as part assembly, web cleaning, printing, and more.
Learn more.


LED light bars from AutomationDirect

Automation-Direct adds CCEA TRACK-ALPHA-PRO series LED light bars to expand their offering of industrial LED fixtures. Their rugged industrial-grade anodized aluminum construction makes TRACKALPHA-PRO ideal for use with medium to large-size industrial machine tools and for use in wet environments. These 120 VAC-rated, high-power LED lights provide intense, uniform lighting, with up to a 4,600-lumen output (100 lumens per watt). They come with a standard bracket mount that allows for angle adjustments. Optional TACLIP mounts (sold separately) provide for extra sturdy, vibration-resistant installations.
Learn more.


New way to do solar power: Researchers boost efficiency and stability of optical rectennas

Georgia Tech researchers have developed a new higher efficiency rectenna design. Here, the device's ability to convert blue light to electricity is tested. [Credit: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech]

 

 

By John Toon, Georgia Tech

The research team that announced the first optical rectenna in 2015 is now reporting a two-fold efficiency improvement in the devices -- and a switch to air-stable diode materials. The improvements could allow the rectennas, which convert electromagnetic fields at optical frequencies directly to electrical current, to operate low-power devices such as temperature sensors.

Ultimately, the researchers believe their device design, which is a combination of a carbon nanotube antenna and diode rectifier, could compete with conventional photovoltaic technologies for producing electricity from sunlight and other sources. The same technology used in the rectennas could also directly convert thermal energy to electricity.

"This work takes a significant leap forward in both fundamental understanding and practical efficiency for the optical rectenna device," said Baratunde Cola, an associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "It opens up this technology to many more researchers who can join forces with us to advance the optical rectenna technology to help power a range of applications, including space flight."

The research was reported January 26 in the journal Advanced Electronic Materials. The work has been supported by the U.S. Army Research Office under the Young Investigator Program, and by the National Science Foundation.

Optical rectennas operate by coupling the light's electromagnetic field to an antenna, in this case an array of multiwall carbon nanotubes whose ends have been opened. The electromagnetic field creates an oscillation in the antenna, producing an alternating flow of electrons. When the electron flow reaches a peak at one end of the antenna, the diode closes, trapping the electrons, then re-opens to capture the next oscillation, creating a current flow.

Optical rectenna schematic: This schematic shows the components of the optical rectenna developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology. [Credit: Thomas Bougher, Georgia Tech]

 

 

The switching must occur at terahertz frequencies to match the light. The junction between the antenna and diode must provide minimal resistance to electrons flowing through it while open, yet prevent leakage while closed.

"The name of the game is maximizing the number of electrons that get excited in the carbon nanotube, and then having a switch that is fast enough to capture them at their peak," Cola explained. "The faster you switch, the more electrons you can catch on one side of the oscillation."

To provide a low work function (ease of electron flow), the researchers initially used calcium as the metal in their oxide insulator/metal diode junction. But calcium breaks down rapidly in air, meaning the device had to be encapsulated during operation -- and fabricated in a glovebox. That made the optical rectenna both impractical for most applications and difficult to fabricate.

So Cola, NSF Graduate Research Fellow Erik Anderson, and Research Engineer Thomas Bougher replaced the calcium with aluminum and tried a variety of oxide materials on the carbon nanotubes before settling on a bilayer material composed of alumina (Al2O3) and hafnium dioxide (HfO2). The combination coating for the carbon nanotube junction, created through an atomic deposition process, provides the quantum mechanical electron tunneling properties required by engineering the oxide electronic properties instead of the metals, which allows air stable metals with higher work functions than calcium to be used.

Rectennas fabricated with the new combination have remained functional for as long as a year. Other metal oxides could also be used, Cola said.

The researchers also engineered the slope of the hill down which the electrons fall in the tunneling process. That also helped increase the efficiency, and allows the use of a variety of oxide materials. The new design also increased the asymmetry of the diodes, which boosted efficiency.

"By working with the oxide electron affinity, we were able to increase the asymmetry by more than ten-fold, making this diode design more attractive," said Cola. "That's really where we got the efficiency gain in this new version of the device."

Optical rectennas could theoretically compete with photovoltaic materials for converting sunlight into electricity. PV materials operate using a different principle, in which photons knock electrons from the atoms of certain materials. The electrons are collected into electrical current.

In September 2015 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, Cola and Bougher reported the first optical rectenna -- a device that had been proposed theoretically for more than 40 years, but never demonstrated.

The early version reported in the journal produced power at microvolt levels. The rectenna now produces power in the millivolt range, and conversion efficiency has gone from 10-5 to 10-3 -- still very low, but a significant gain.

"Though there still is room for significant improvement, this puts the voltage in the range where you could see optical rectennas operating low-power sensors," Cola said. "There are a lot of device geometry steps you could take to do something useful with the optical rectenna today in voltage-driven devices that don't require significant current."

Cola believes the rectennas could be useful for powering internet of things devices, especially if they can be used to produce electricity from scavenged thermal energy. For converting heat to electricity, the principle is the same as for light-capturing oscillations in a field with the broadband carbon nanotube antenna.

"People have been excited about thermoelectric generators, but there are many limitations on getting a system that works effectively," he said. "We believe that the rectenna technology will be the best approach for harvesting heat economically."

In future work, the research team hopes to optimize the antenna operation and improve their theoretical understanding of how the rectenna works, allowing further optimization. One day, Cola hopes the devices will help accelerate space travel, producing power for electric thrusters that will boost spacecraft.

"Our end game is to see carbon nanotube optical rectennas working on Mars and in the spacecraft that takes us to Mars," he said.

This work was supported by the Army Research Office under the Young Investigator Program agreement W911NF-13-1-0491 and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship program under grant DGE-1650044.

Published March 2018

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