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Thermoelectric energy harvesting for wearable precision agriculture technologies.

B. R. dos Reis



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Thermoelectric energy harvesting for wearable precision agriculture technologies.
B. R. dos Reis*1, B. Poudel2, S. Priya2, R. R. White1. 1Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA, 2Penn State University University Park, PA.

Wearable precision agriculture devices are growing in popularity in dairy production systems globally. Currently, these devices rely on batteries with or without solar support as power sources. Although solar power works well for technologies deployed on pastured animals, equivalent alternative power sources for technologies deployed on animals in confinement systems are needed to improve the lifetime and usability of wearable technologies. Thermoelectric energy generators (TEG) are a promising technology that may be able to replace batteries in low-power wearable technologies. Our objective was to test the feasibility of using a TEG to power wearable precision agriculture technologies. The TEG harvests heat from the temperature differential between the animal's body and the ambient environment and converts that heat into available electrical energy that can be used to power microprocessors and associated sensors. To test the feasibility of leveraging the TEG to power microprocessor-based sensors, we constructed a prototype sensor consisting of a TEG mounted on a halter and connected to a Track-It Data Logger which measured and logged the voltage harvested by the TEG. We logged the average voltage harvested from 3 animals during 30-min measurement intervals. Animals were not clipped and had approximately a 2 mm hair coat. Data were analyzed with a mixed model using animal as a fixed effect and sampling time as a repeated measure. Throughout the duration of the experiment a sampling rate of 10 Hz was used. Data recovery from the loggers was high (96%) with 4% of data reflecting either open voltage (data logger errors) or no connectivity with the animal (mV <5). After cleaning poor quality data, the average voltage harvested over the data collection period was 53.6 mV. Animals differed significantly (P < 0.001) in harvested voltage over the 30-min period and ranged from 45.9 mV to 65.3 mV. Microprocessors typically require a 3.7 V power supply, suggesting additional work on refining the efficiency of energy harvest from TEG is needed before these devices can be used to reliably power wearable precision technologies.

Keywords: thermoelectric generator, renewable energy, precision technologies.

Biography: Barbara Roqueto dos Reis currently works at Department of Animal & Poultry Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Barbara does research in ruminant nutrition and production.