A high-temperature acoustic-electric system for power delivery and data communication through thick metallic barriers

T. J. Lawry, K. R. Wilt, S. Roa-Prada, J. D. Ashdown, G. J. Saulnier, H. A. Scarton, P. K. Das, A. J. Gavens

Research output: Book / Book Chapter / ReportResearch Bookspeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In many sensing applications that monitor extreme environmental conditions within sealed metallic vessels, penetrating vessel walls in order to feed through power and data cables is impractical, as this may compromise a vessels structural integrity and its environmental isolation. Frequent servicing of sensing equipment within these environments is costly, so the use of batteries is strongly undesired and power harvesting techniques are preferred. Traditional electromagnetic power delivery and communication techniques, however, are highly ineffective in these applications, due to Faraday shielding effects from the metallic vessel walls. A viable, non-destructive alternative is to use piezoelectric materials to transmit power through thick metallic barriers acoustically. We present critical elements of a high-temperature battery-less sensor system prototype, including power harvesting, voltage regulation, and data communication circuitry able to operate up to 260°C. Power transmission is achieved by coaxially aligning a pair of high-temperature piezoelectric transducers on opposite sides of a thick steel barrier. Continuous-wave excitation of the outside transducer creates an acoustic beam that is captured by the opposite transducer, forming an acoustic-electric link for power harvesting circuitry. Simultaneously, sensor data can be transmitted out of the high-temperature environment by switching the electrical impedance placed across the leads of the inside transducer, creating a reflection-based amplitude modulated signal on the outside transducer. Transducer housing, loading, and alternatives for acoustic couplants are discussed. Measurement results are presented, and it was found that the system can harvest up to 1 watt of power and communicate sensor data up to 50 kbps, while operating at 260°C.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnergy Harvesting and Storage
Subtitle of host publicationMaterials, Devices, and Applications II
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes
EventEnergy Harvesting and Storage: Materials, Devices, and Applications II - Orlando, FL, United States
Duration: 25 Apr 201128 Apr 2011

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


ConferenceEnergy Harvesting and Storage: Materials, Devices, and Applications II
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityOrlando, FL


  • Acoustic couplant
  • Acoustic-electric
  • High-temperature
  • Piezoelectric transducer
  • Power harvesting
  • Remote sensing
  • Through-wall
  • Ultrasonic communication


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