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Pullen, 2K.R.Buffard
Dept. of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 2 Dept. of Mechanical Engineering Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2A2, UK
We have developed a MEMS power conversion device that combines an axial-flow turbine with an axial-flux electromagnetic generator. This device can generate electrical power when placed in an air-stream, and is aimed at applications such as flow sensing and power generation for remote sensors. Recent experimental performance data are presented for prototypes, and compared with CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulations. The current devices have a volume of approximately 0.5 cm3, generate 1 mW of output power at a pressure drop of 8 mhar and a flow rate of 35 litres per minute, and will operate at pressure drops down to a few mhar. Recently at Imperial College we have been developing an energy scavenger based on an axial-flow turhine with an integrated axial-flux electromagnetic generator. The device, shown schematically in Fig. 1, has a sandwich structure consisting of two silicon stators placed either side of a polymer rotor. Axial gas flow through the device drives the rotor, while permanent magnets embedded in the rotor induce output voltage in planar coils on the stators. Silicon
Air flow


, Coil



In recent years there has been growing interest in alternative power sources that might eliminate the need for chemical batteries in portable electronic devices. For low power applications (up to mW levels), there is the intriguing possibility of ‘scavenging’ energy from the surroundings thereby eliminating the need for an installed energy source, while at higher power levels there are fuel-burning devices that can potentially offer longer shelf-life and/or higher power density than batteries. Energy scavenging power generators to date have been based mainly on resonant mass-spring-damper systems in which damping is effected, at least in part, by a transducer that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy [1,2]. Such devices work most effectively when excited by a lowamplitude, reciprocating motion at a frequency close to resonance, making them potentially very effective for extracting energy from vibrating machinery. Non-resonant devices in which the spring is omitted are also under development. These have been shown to he more efficient for larger, low frequency excitations such as might he experienced by a portable or wearable device [3]. Work on fuel-huming MEMS power generators has been focused mainly on microturbines. The most highly developed work in this area is that of MIT, where there is an extensive gas turbine program [ 3 ] . The MIT project aims to develop a fully integrated device that combines compressor, burner, turbine and electrical generator in a single device fabricated as a multi-wafer stack. Other groups have worked on turhogenerator subsystems, for example by combining a turbine and an electrical generator on a single chip [SI.

SoR magnetic

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Permanent magnet

Lower stator





Figure I : Axial-flow microturbine with integrated axial-flux electromagnetic generator: (a) cross-section of device; (b) exploded view, cut away to show rotor blade and guide vane profiles (generatorparts not shown).

The axial-flow turhine geometry was chosen because it allows operation at low pressure ratios, as required for extraction of power directly from an ambient gas flow. Axial-flow turbines are difficult to realize by conventional microfabrication methods, because to produce the necessary

0-7803-8265-X/04/$17.00 02004 IEEE


with the guide vane insert removed to reveal the rotor. The rotor thickness was made equal to the permanent magnet length of 1 mm. Fig. 5 . the outlet stator was omitted as it was not included in the prototype devices. Fig. \ s- _*. This led to a design with inner and outer radii of 2.1 mm and 3. This g e o m e e is well known from larger scale machines [6]. and 4. I - n . electroplating. soft magnetic material was electroplated into an annular cavity formed on the backside of a 4"-dia silicon substrate by DRIE. and secured with SUS which was applied with a needle and cured by UV flood exposure and heating._. !.. was used during laser machining to achieve the required blade profiles [9]. The geometry modelled is shown in Fig. These differ from the paper design in that no attempt was made to introduce rounding on the leading edges of the blades. Two-layer spiral coils were then formed on the front side by copper electroplating into thick resist moulds. 3 ) . which are well suited to microfabrication. Outer dimensions. The rotor blades and guide vanes were designed on paper using standard turbomachinery practice. The same cross-sectional shape was used both for the rotor blades the inlet stator guide vanes. To form the stators. f showing electroplatedplanar coils. assuming a 3.5 mm and 6. 2. An SUS spacer was used to define the gap between the stators. permanent magnets and a precision machined steel shaft were manually inserted into the cavities in the rotor. Scale bar is 1 mm. Scale bar is 200 p. with straight guide vanes being used on the outlet stator. viewedporn inlet side. The coils were embedded in SUS. 569 . --e -r r7 M. .nrl .05. and laser micromachining. 4 shows a completed device viewed from the outlet side. Figure 2: SEM photograph o partially fabricated stator.7 mm for the electromagnetic generator section._ qr. immediately prior to embedding of the second coil layer.000 rpm and a pressure ratio of 1. The axial-flux geometry was chosen for the generator because it is compatible with planar spiral coils. under computer numerical control. The device size was dictated by the decision to use conventional ball-race bearings (3 mm-dia) and commercial 1 mm-dia NdBFe (neodymium boron iron) permanent magnets. The rotors were preformed by 2-layer SUS photolithography. Figure 3: SEMphotagraph of SU8 polymer rotor with laser micromachined 3 0 blades. A variable aperture mask. The entire device was then assembled on a metal jig with integral pins to align the two stators.. Further details of this process are contained in [XI. and corresponds to the actual blade profiles realised. We have used a combination of conventional UV lithography and laser micromachining to produce SU8 polymer parts with the required profiles. which also formed the mask for through-wafer etching of the turbine fluid channel. Following the laser machining process. CFD SIMULATIONS CFD numerical simulations of the turbine stage have been camed out using CFX-TASCflow software. Also.%.0 mm for the turbine annulus. nominal shaft speed of 30. 2 shows an SEM image of a partially fabricated stator.curved profiles on the rotor blades and guide vanes it is necessary to fabricate structures where the sidewall angle evolves with depth in a controlled manner. DEVICE DESIGN FABRICATION AND Prototype devices have been fabricated by a combination of silicon deep reactive ion etching (DRIE). and has also been used previously in mm-scale motors [7].XIIaO* -. The guide vanes were formed in SUS stator inserts using a similar approach. and then laser machined to define the curved turbine blade profiles (see Fig. Figure 4: Photograph of un assembled protofype. including metal casing are 18x18x9 mm.

0-! 0.e. this can be attributed to the square leading edges. and at a higher rotation speed of around 140 krpm. although such high power operation would not be possible in our devices because of materials limitations.50 e Figure 6: Relative Mach number at mid-span for rotation speed of 70 b p m andpressure drop of 50 mbar. The temperatures at the entrance and exit of the device were also measured. These indicated that the optimum (i.30 0. 1 /--0. Note that the threshold pressure head for activation of the device is very low at around 3 mbar. Figure 6 shows a relative Mach number plot at midspan.3). These regions correspond to regions of high loss. Gi 0. Walls were modelled as smooth and tip clearances were not included as the priority was to produce performance maps in order to understand the hasic operating characteristics of the turbine. The pressure drop across the device was measured by a manometer. indicating that the turbine should be far from choked when operated at or below the design speed. EXPEFUMENTAL TESTS Functional tests of prototype devices have been performed with compressed nitrogen. By varying the CFD model boundary conditions (inlet pressure and rotational speed) a set of theoretical performance curves was produced for the turbine stage over a wide range of operating conditions. Figure 7 is a streamline plot. assuming a rotation speed of 70. which reveals regions of flow separation around the rotor and stator blades. These 4. Even at this rotation speed the maximum relative Mach number is fairly low (less than 0. The turbine was inserted into a 570 . Inlet and outlet cones were attached to central portions of the stators on either side of the device to reduce pressure losses associated with abrupt changes in the channel cross-section. maximum efficiency) operating point for the machine is at a somewhat higher pressure ratio of around 1.000 rpm and a pressure drop across the stage of 50 mbar. The theoretical power output of the device turbine under these conditions was found to be in excess of IO W. I . i .000 elements was used to model overall stage performance. A k-w Shear Stress Transport (SST) turbulence model was used as this is recommended for the accurate prediction of flow separation near smooth walls for low-Reynolds number computations. Near the fronts of the blades. but would make the fabrication process more complex by requiring additional laser machining steps.10 0. refined near the blade surfaces to improve the modelling of flow separation.25 0. Figure 7: Streamline plot fur same conditions as in Fig.15 Figure 5: Geometry used for CFD model (all dimensions in mm). using thermocouples. This result illustrates the high theoretical power densities that can be achieved.A relatively coarse mesh of 30. This is a key feature for direct extraction of power from an ambient flow. Figure 8 shows the measured variation of pressure drop with flow rate up to around 60 LPM flow. connected via small (0. The flow rate was measured by a precision gas flow meter (Cole Palmer.20 0. 16 series.20 Stator (SI) o r test jig comprising a long tube with a bore matched to the outer diameter of the turbine annulus. Rounding of these edges would improve performance. 6.5 mm dia) holes in the tube immediately upstream and downstream of the device. Figure 8 also shows CFD predictions for the same operating range. range 0-250 SLPM).

June 8-12. Yeatman. “Analysis and optimisation of MEMS electrostatic on-chip power supply for self-powering of slowmoving sensors”. Sea and Air. Note. Rumsby. 148(6). Amirtharajah. At a flow rate of 35 LPM. vol. under Grant No. vol. IEEE Conference Record. G. ._ -.C.2003. M. which would be sufficient for many remote sensing applications. Mitcheson.2001.R. both as function offlow rate.H. 2000. fabrication and characterization of axial-flow &bine for flow sensing”. We will explore these possibilities in future work. that the generated power is only a small fraction (around I%) of the expected output power of the turbine as predicted by CFD. Proc.E. [ 5 ] T. 1.R.2003. 38(6). M. Heaton.“Microengineered Axial-Flow Pumps and Turbines”.B. and extracting the expected flow rate. Oct.A. Boston. AS. “A comparison between the axial f u and the radial fu l lx stmchxes for PM synchronous motors”. “Vibration-to-electc energy conversion”. 0. IEE Proc. DISCUSSION CONCLUSIONS AND The prototype devices described in this paper are already capable of generating potentially useful levels of power when C. “Design of a permanent magnet planar synchronous micromotor”. K.. Sheanvood. 492-495. 1996. R. Green.2003. 8-12. each stator can deliver a power of 1. The latter could he achieved by increasing one or more of the following: the number of coil layers on each stator. Proc.2002. the agreement between the experimental and theoretical curves is very good. pp.B. Holmes. P. IEEE Trans. and a rotation speed of 30. MEMS Gas Turbine Engines”. Profurno. J. IEEE Trans. Placing the generator outside the turbine would also help to balance the maximum outputs of the two devices. Portugal. Gilles. June l6-19. “Desim. J.A. 702-705. 223 -227. Industry Applications Conference. G R N I 8895 . Epstein. Lazzari. Miao. pp. “Millimeter-Scale. J.01 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Row rate (LPM) Figure 9: Comparison between measured electromagnetic generator output power and CFD-predicted turbine output power. 64-76. Guimaraes. Wiegele. June 21-24.000 rpm. “Laser Profiling of 3-1) Microturbine Blades”. [7] P. pp. Industry Appl. Figure 9 shows the measured variation of generator output power (per stator. Munich. 23082313. F.C. IECE ‘ points were obtained by entering measured values for pressure drop and rotation rate. However. [6] A. Proc. Transducer’03. E.1 0. Hone. K. pp. Stark. 5. Eurosensors XVII. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS o ! 0 10 I 20 30 40 50 60 70 Flow rate (LPM) Figure 8: Comparison between measured and predicted variations ofpressure drop with nitrogenflow rate. Tenconi.. M.H. Circuits. subject to small pressure ratios compatible with energy scavenging from ambient flows. Williams. REFERENCES [l] 100 -Generator (expt) (CFD) : n $ 10 -Turbine 1 0. Sept 21-24.G. 337-342. AS. Laser micromachining facilities were kindly provided by Exitech Limited. however. pp. M.L. UK.S. Pullen and P. Oxford. Atlanta.T. Mu-Miranda. Lang..E. Power for Land. T. Hong. We believe that most of this power is being dissipated in windage and bearing losses 1000 This work was supported by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. “Development of an electromagnetic micro-generator”. comparison of the CFD and experimental results suggests that it should he possible either to (a) achieve similar output power levels with a smaller turbine andor lower pressure head if losses can he reduced.1 mW. Cugat. A. Holmes.H. Mellor. [3] P. Cavagnino. Chandrakasan. Heaton. Devices and Syst. ~. 2003. 181 G. Birch. T.H. VLSI Syst. [2] S. [4] A. into a matched load of 40 Q) with rotation speed for a typical device. Given the approximate nature of the CFD model. lending credibility to the CFD calculations. 9(1). P. pp. J. “Micro-turbo-generator design and fabrication: a preliminary study”. Pullen. [9] A. I 571 . LPM 2003. Meninger. Schanen. 1517 -1524. Holmes. C. or @) generate higher output power levels with the same turbine if the power output capabilities of the generator can be enhanced. B. 4. the fill factor of the coils (copperldielectric ratio) or the number and/or strength of the permanent magnets.M. Harradine. vol. Proc. vol. Delamare. A. Proceedings of ASME Turbo Expo 2003. vol.P.S.D. 2001. R. pp. Yates.