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2015 14th International Conference on Optical Communications and Networks (ICOCN) @ Nanjing, China

Novel Wireless Sensor System Based on Power-over-Fiber Technique

Jing Yan, Jin Wang*, Yunqing Lu, Jian Jiang, Hongdan Wan
Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, No. 9, Wenyuan Road, Nanjing 210023
In this paper, we develop a novel wireless sensor system
based on power-over-fiber technique, to realize a
flexible distributed sensing over a middle distance,
especially under extreme environments like high
voltage, strong magnetic field, flammable and explosive
occasion. In this system, the optical energy out of a
high power laser in the base-station is transmitted via a
fiber and then converted into the electrical energy by a
photovoltaic power converter in the remote unit. This
optically power-supplied remote unit operates as the
coordinator in the wireless sensor network (WSN) at the
remote site, and exchanges the sensing information with
the base station via another fiber. In this way, the
sensing information can be collected by WSN at the
remote site, and be transmitted over a middle distance
with the fiber. In order to improve the power supply
ability of PPC, a maximum power point tracking
technique is applied and more than 80% of PPCs
maximum output power can be extracted. Moreover, to
reduce the power consumption of the remote unit and
sensor nodes, a simple and stable low-power
communication protocol is designed. This novel sensor
system can collect, transmit, and process the sensing
information over 2 kms distance.
Keywords: Sensor network, Laser, Power-over-fiber,
Photovoltaic power converter

power-supply methods using solar, wind, heat and so on

are restricted by various environmental factors [2].
Power-over-fiber (POF) technique can offer a safe
power-supply to wired sensors under extreme
environment [3][4]. In this technique, the optical energy
out of a high power laser is transmitted via a fiber and
then converted into the electrical energy by a
photovoltaic power converter (PPC) on the other fiber
end [5]. By using a fiber as the power-supply channel
for remote electronic devices, this technique is
inherently immune to electromagnetic interference.
Commonly, another fiber is also used to promise for
middle-distant information perception and data
transmission in this technique. However, to our
knowledge, this technique has not been applied for
WSN, because the power consumption of sensor nodes
is usually large in comparison to that of a wireless
sensor, and the present protocol of the wireless
communication is not suitable for the POF.
In this work, a novel WSN based on the POF
technique is developed, where the sensing information
can be collected by WSN at the remote site and be
transmitted over a middle distance with the fiber. To get
maximum electric energy out of PPC, an intelligent
power management is applied based on the maximum
power point tracking (MPPT) technology. Also, in
order to reduce the power consumption of the sensor
nodes, a low-energy communication protocol is written.


The wireless sensor system mainly consists of a base

station, a fiber link, a remote unit and a WSN, as shown
in Fig. 1.
Power Fiber


Signal Fiber

Base station





Fiber link


978-1-4673-7373-9/15/$31.00 2015 IEEE

2.1 System design


Wireless sensor networks (WSN) have been becoming a

promising method to monitor, acquire and transmit the
physical or environmental information to a main
location [1]. In a WSN, numerous sensors are flexibly
distributed to cooperatively perceive the information.
However, WSN still has difficulty in covering a wide
geographic region. The bottleneck in this case is to
transmit the huge amount of information data perceived
by remotely and widely distributed sensors to the main
control-center. Thus, special nodes are added between
the wireless sensors and the main control-center, to
pre-process the information data and to extend the
sensing range. Unfortunately, this brings in another
problem, namely supply the power of middle-distant
special nodes in a safe and reliable way. The usage of
batteries for the power supply is limited by its lifetime
and the cost of periodic maintenance, while the


Remote unit


Fig. 1 Diagram of the wireless sensor system.

The base station plays the role of the control-center

in the WSN. The base station is equipped mainly with a
high power laser (HPL), which provides the optical
energy for the remote unit, and a fiber optical

2015 14th International Conference on Optical Communications and Networks (ICOCN) @ Nanjing, China

2.2 Power manager based on the MPPT technique

As the output power of the PPC varies with the load,
exemplarily shown in Fig. 2, a load-matching to the
internal impedance of the PPC should be realized to
improve the output electrical power of the PPC. Thus, a
power manager is designed based on the MPPT
technique, which is commonly used in solar energy
system [6]. This power manager includes a MPPT
circuit, an EDLC (Electronic Double Layer Capacitor),
a power supervisor and a buck-boost DC-DC, as shown
in Fig. 3.
The operation principle of this MPPT is that the
working voltage VW of the PPC is adjusted to approach
the voltage of the maximum power point of the PPC
VMPP. There is a relationship between VMPP and the open
circuit voltage VOC of the PPC:
MV is a constant determined by the properties of the
PPC. The value of MV is about 0.71~0.80. Thus, by
sampling the VOC periodically, the VMPP can be
calculated. To approach the VMPP, a switching power
supply circuit (SPSC) is inserted between the PPC and
the load. As shown in Fig. 4, the PPC is equivalent to a
voltage source VS and series resistance Res, and the load
is RL. The SPSC consists of an inductance L, a diode D,
a capacitance C, and a switch tube (MOSFET) Q.
Assuming that the SPSC does not consume energy and
all energy is consumed by the load RL, then:
Req (1 Dt )2 RL
Here, Dt is the duty ratio of the switch tube. By
adjusting the duty ratio Dt, which is realized by using a
pulse width modulation (PWM) signal, Req can be
controlled. In this way, VW can be varied to approach
VMPP, and the PPC can work near the maximum output
power point.
As the PPC outputs nearly the maximum power, the
blocks behind the MPPT allocate the appropriate energy
to power consuming devices. If the voltage on both
ends of the EDLC reaches the preset threshold voltage
of the power supervisor, the buck-boost DC-DC would

978-1-4673-7373-9/15/$31.00 2015 IEEE

connect to the pre-stage circuits and set an appropriate

voltage VO of the devices or circuits afterwards.
Output Power (mW)

transceiver (FOT), whose receiver (Rx) part receives

the sensing data from the remote unit and whose
transmitter (Tx) part sends the control signal to the
remote unit. While the control signal and the sensing
data are transmitted over the signal fiber, the high
power light is transmitted over the power fiber and then
converted into the electrical energy by the PPC in the
remote unit. Behind the PPC, a power manager (PM) is
added to allocate the power to a transceiver and a
coordinator. This coordinator not only organizes the
WSN, but also preprocesses the collected sensing data,
while a large number of sensors within the WSN work
cooperatively to perceive the environment information,
such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, etc. As the
coordinating functions are taken over by the coordinator,
these wireless sensors consume very little power and
thus can work for several months with batteries.






Load ()
Fig. 2 The output power of the PPC for different load.



Buck-Boost Vo

Fig. 3 Block diagram of the intelligent power management.








Fig. 4 Equivalent diagram of PPCs impedance matching. A pulse

width modulation (PWM) signal is sent to the switch tube Q.
Tab. 1 Performance of the MPPT circuit.

Power of the incident

light (W)
Maximum power point
PMPP of the PPC (mW)
Output power
PO of PPC (mW)













Tab. 1 shows the performance of the designed

MPPT circuit for PPCs. It can obtain 78.1% of PPCs
maximum power for an incident optical power of 0.5W,
and can reach 98.2% for stronger incident lights. This
indicates that the performance of MPPT circuit is better
when the incident light power is higher.
2.3 Low power communication protocol
To extend the application of the WSN, the power
consumption of the electrical units should be reduced
effectively. A low power communication protocol is
written in this work, with which the average power
consumption of both the remote unit and the sensor
nodes can be reduced by arranging their working mode
To demonstrate the operation principle of the
communication protocol, four wireless sensors S1, S2,
S3 and S4 are used. Fig. 5 shows the time sequence of
the system. The remote unit is responsible for
organizing the network, while the sensors S1, S2, S3 and
S4 apply for joining the network. After accepted by the
remote unit, the sensors send their short addresses
Addr1~Addr4 and the collected data Data1~Data4 to

2015 14th International Conference on Optical Communications and Networks (ICOCN) @ Nanjing, China

obtained in the remote unit is 151.4mW. This effective

power is larger than the actual average power
consumption of it, which is about 127mW, as shown in
Fig. 7.
Power Consumption (mW)

the remote unit in the form of high-level signal. The

remote unit works on the receiving status and
simultaneously coordinates the working mode of the
sensors in the form of task polling. Then, the remote
unit sends the sensing information to the base station at
the speed of 115200bps. The base station works on the
receiving status in the most of time, and also sends the
control signal to the remote unit to execute some simple
control operations when needed.
Fig. 6 shows that the signal waveforms of Tx_Data
transmitted by the remote unit and the Rx_Data
received in the base station are the same. Thus the
designed communication protocol is proved to be stable
and reliable.








Time (s)
Fig. 7 Power consumption of the remote unit


Control signal
Auxiliary sensor data
Wireless sensor data








This work proposes a novel wireless sensor network
with a safe energy-delivery method and a reliable
communication way for sensing applications under
extreme environments. This network might be used for
such as the toxic gas monitoring in the mine which is
inflammable and explosive, or the current and voltage
measurements in the electric grid system which has
high electromagnetic interference to equipments.

Fig. 5 Time sequence diagram of the network.

This work was partially supported by National Science

Foundation of Jiangsu Province (No. BY2014013).



Fig. 6 Waveform of data signal.


By implementing the POF and other techniques given
above, a demonstration WSN is realized with an
expanded sensing range. In this network, the
communication distance between the remote unit and
the base station is 2km, while the communication
distance between different wireless sensors is about
50m. In the experiment, the emission power of the laser
in the base station is 2W, and after transmitted over the
2km optical fiber, the optical power is 0.5W only. For
such an incident power, the photoelectric efficiency of
the PPC is then 38.8%, and the effective power

978-1-4673-7373-9/15/$31.00 2015 IEEE




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