A conformal 10 GHz rectenna for wireless powering of piezoelectric sensor electronics
ABSTRACT This paper presents the design, implementation and characterization of a rectenna array for wireless powering of sensor electronics for airframe fatigue detection. The rectenna aperture is powered 5 minutes at a time during inspection with a requirement of ±15V at 100mW. The maximum incident RF power is 10mW/cm2. A single rectenna element at this incident power density has an output power of 5 mW and an estimated efficiency of 50%. Each of the 25 antenna elements has an integrated rectifier, the outputs of which are combined in series to achieve the total required voltage and power at an estimated efficiency of 40%.
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ABSTRACT: In this paper, an overview of the field of wireless powering is presented with an emphasis on low-power applications. Several rectenna elements and arrays are discussed in more detail: (1) a 10-GHz array for powering sensors in aircraft wings; (2) a single antenna in the 2.4-GHz ISM band for low-power assisted-living sensors; and (3) a broadband array for power harvesting in the 2-18GHz frequency range.Serbian Journal of Electrical Engineering. 01/2006; 3(2):149-162.
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A Conformal 10 GHz Rectenna for Wireless Powering of
Piezoelectric Sensor Electronics
Christi Walsh, Student Member, IEEE, Sébastien Rondineau, Milos Jankovic,
Student Member, IEEE, George Zhao*, Zoya Popovic, Fellow, IEEE
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, Colorado 80309-0425
* Intelligent Automation, Inc, Rockville, MD
Abstract— This paper presents the design, implementation
and characterization of a rectenna array for wireless powering
of sensor electronics for airframe fatigue detection. The
rectenna aperture is powered 5 minutes at a time during
inspection with a requirement of ±15V at 100mW. The
maximum incident RF power is 10mW/cm2. A single rectenna
element at this incident power density has an output power of 5
mW and an estimated efficiency of 50%. Each of the 25 antenna
elements has an integrated rectifier, the outputs of which are
combined in series to achieve the total required voltage and
power at an estimated efficiency of 40%.
Keywords-component; Rectenna, Rectifying Circuit, Schottky
Diode, Piezoelectric Sensors
The flight environment of an aircraft is very harsh due to
large changes in humidity, temperature, pressure, speed, and
loading conditions. These effects cause significant stress to
the aircraft frame. As a result, corrosion, delamination,
cracks, disbonds, and other failures occur once the aircraft is
in service for some time. Since early detection of failures in
aircraft structures is crucial for aircraft safety, a smart health
monitoring system is desired. Using piezoelectric sensors,
failures can be detected before they pose a significant risk to
the aircraft .
A wireless means of actuator excitation, communication,
and sensor interrogation has many benefits such as fast
inspection, less downtime, labor cost reduction, etc [2,3].
The objective of this research is to develop a prototype
system with ultrasonic guided-wave “leave-in-place”
passive sensors, an on-board miniaturized antenna, and a
multi-channel circuit for data acquisition.
Currently, similar monitoring systems use batteries,
magnetic coupling or solar cells to power the sensors and
control, data collection and processing electronics . As
an alternative to conventional powering methods, this work
presents a rectenna array for that provides DC power to the
sensors and circuits from incident microwave radiation.
This paper summarizes the single rectenna element design,
array design, fabrication, and evaluation. Rectennas have
been demonstrated for a variety of applications, over a range
of frequencies and powers, e.g. .
The specifications of the rectenna are derived from the
requirements of the sensor system. It requires ± 15V with
100mW of continuous power for 5 minutes in order to
complete corrosion inspection.
requirements for the rectenna are an aperature of 15cm by
15cm using as this of a substrate as possible to conform to
the shape of the airframe. The environment is controlled
during testing; therefore the transmission is only through
free space without obstacles between the rectenna and
illuminating source. The transmitting antenna is linearly
polarized and provides a power density of at most
10mW/cm2 incident on the rectenna array from a maximum
distance of one meter. The block diagram of the system is
shown in Fig.1. The rectenna array is designed starting from
a single element. The number of elements and their DC
connection is determined from the power obtained from the
single element and the total requirements.
The physical size
Fig 1. Block diagram of rectenna and sensor system. In the initial
test, only the sensor control and processing electronics circuitry is
powered by the rectenna.
RECTENNA ARRAY DESIGN
A. Antenna Element Design
For this application, the antenna element is a narrowband,
linearly polarized patch antenna at 10 GHz designed for a
0-7803-8846-1/05/$20.00 (C) 2005 IEEE
0.25-mm thick Rogers Duroid substrate with a permittivity
of 2.2. The gain of the patch calculated from its physical
area is 1.39 (1.45dB). In a rectenna element, the rectifying
diode is connected directly to the antenna, so the radiation
pattern cannot be measured at RF. When a feedline is added
to the patch, the measured gain is approximately one (0 dB).
The thin substrate is chosen because it allows the final
rectenna array to be flexible enough to conform to the
moderate curve of the airframe while desirable microwave
properties are maintained.
B. Single Rectifier/Antenna Element Design
The rectifier diode is an Agilent HSMS-8101 Schottky
mixer diode. It was chosen based on its reported
performance at 10GHz and its availability. An ADS
harmonic balance simulation using the model in Fig. 2a was
used to optimize input and output impedances for maximum
output voltage and power. The input impedance is found to
be purely real. The maximum input impedance value is
limited by the highest impedance of a manufactured patch
antenna, around 200 Ω near the corner. The output circuit is
an LC circuit, used as both the low pass filter and the
matching circuit. The matching aspects of this circuit are
more critical to the design for optimizing the output power
. The single element was simulated without considering
connections to other rectenna elements. The maximum
efficiency for the ideal circuit is 52% for an input power of
Fig 2. Model for ADS rectenna simulation circuit (a). The
simulation uses a Spice model for the diode and models the antenna
as an AC power source with a large series. The optimal lumped-
element values are determined to be C = 100pF; L = 2.56nH. The
lumped elements are soldered in place as shown in (b). The ground
symbol indicates a via to the ground plane of the antenna.
The rectenna element was fabricated using the layout in
Fig 4b. A commercial lumped element capacitor and a
small 0.24mm diameter wire as the inductor provide the
necessary impedance for the output filter. The output
voltage is measured across a variable resistor and the DC
power is calculated as V2/R. Figure 3 shows the simulated
and measured output voltage versus the output resistance.
C Array Design and DC Power Combining
The total number of elements cannot be calculated
directly from a single element because the efficiency of a
rectenna array is lower than the efficiency of a single
element . Therefore, the minimum number of elements is
calculated from the specified DC power and the efficiency
of a single element. The minimum number of elements is
calculated in (1)
where N is the number of elements, Pspec is the specified DC
power, Sinc is the incident power density, Aeff is the effective
area of the antenna element and η is the rectification
efficiency. Using a rectification efficiency of 50% and an
effective area of 1cm2, a minimum of 20 elements will be
required to provide 100mW.
0 200400 600800
Output Resistance [Ohms]
Output Resistance [Ohms]
DC Voltage [V]
Fig 3. Output power (a) and voltage (b) as a function of output
Although the overall efficiency depends on how the
rectenna elements are connected , all 25 elements in this
rectenna are connected in series, as shown in Fig. 4, to
maximize the output voltage as required by the electronics
load. The simulation is modified to reflect the additional
reactance from the DC lines between rectenna elements.
Data is reported here for 16, 19 and 25 rectenna elements
connected in series. The trend for output power and voltage
versus the resistive load is shown in Fig.5. Series connection
of 25 elements provides the required 15V output with
approximately 100mW of DC power for a 2.4-k Ω load.
To estimate the efficiency, first the total received RF
power must be calculated as:
from which the efficiency of the array can be calculated
from  as
In (2) and (3), Sinc is the incident power density and PDC is
the output DC power.
100 pF Chip
Fig 4. (a) Layout of multiple elements connected in series. (b) A
close-up 3D representation of the assembled rectenna elements. (c)
Fabricated rectenna array using 25 of 38 elements.
The maximum efficiencies of the 16, 19 and 25 element
arrays are 44%, 44% and 39% respectively.
The rectenna array has 38 elements in a total area of
153.3cm2 (roughly 13.5cm by 14.5cm). Since only 25
elements are required, the array can be populated with more
diodes to increase the output power and voltage.
500 10001500 20002500 3000
Resistive Load [ohms]
Fig 6. Measured DC output power (a) and DC output voltage (b)
versus the resistive load.
The direct output voltage of the rectenna only provides
positive or negative voltage and additional circuitry is
required to provide both polarities. The Maxim ICL7662
inverter chip is suitable for this application although it has a
substantial current requirement (~30-40 mA) in the transient
start-up phase. The input power requirement during this
phase is almost 200mW, or twice the available output from
the rectenna. To solve this problem, a large capacitor
(approximately 1mF) is used to store enough energy to
compensate for the initial requirements of the inverter chip.
Once the inverter is in its normal operating region, the
power requirements are very low and its efficiency is close
to 98%. The capacitor is charged in an open circuit
configuration and then connected to the inverter chip.
Fig 6. Block diagram of DC power processing to obtain ± 15 V. A
1mF capacitor is added to store enough energy for the transient
period of the inverter chip. The Zener diode is added to limit the
open circuit voltage.
The positive and negative voltages are used to power the
diagnostic system from Intelligent Automation, Inc. The
output of the rectenna to the system is tested at decreasing
power levels and angles of polarization. The current and
voltage are measured for the positive and negative outputs
and the total power is reported as the sum of the two
outputs. The measurements are performed while the
rectenna is powering the diagnostic system. Fig. 7 shows
the results of these tests. Below 20mW output power, the
inverter chip was operating outside its low power region,
thereby drawing too much power and shutting down the
IV. CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE WORK
In summary, the 14cm by 15cm rectenna is able to
provide 100mW of continuous power for longer than the
required 5 minutes. Using a charge storage capacitor, the
rectenna is able to provide up to 200mW of power during
the transient turn on period of the inverter. This indicates
that the rectenna can also be used in a burst mode that would
provide high powers for short duration. A resonant
converter with high efficiency can be used to provide the 2-
MHz 50-volt bursts required for the piezoelectric
transducers, and efforts to integrate this system are under
way. Our goal is to have a complete sensor system powered
and interrogated wirelessly.
This work is funded by NAVAIR under a contract with
Intelligent Automation, Inc.. Christi Walsh thanks the Dept.
of Education for funding under a GAANN graduate
fellowship at the Univ. of Colorado in Hybrid System
Electronics (HYSE). The authors wish to thank Jason
Brietbarth at the University of Colorado for useful
discussions and packaging assistance; and Joe Haggerty at
dBm Engineering, for helpful guidance.
-90-60-300 3060 90
Polarization Angle [degrees]
Received Power [mW]
Efficiency [%], DC Power [mW]
Fig 7. Measured output DC power versus polarization angle (a)
and received RF power (b).
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