Energy Harvesting Opportunities Throughout the Nuclear Power Cycle for Self-Powered Wireless Sensor Nodes


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Virginia Tech


Dedicated sensors are widely used throughout many industries to monitor everyday operations, maintain safety, and report performance characteristics. In order to adopt a more sustainable solution, much research is being applied to self-powered sensing, implementing solutions which harvest wasted ambient energy sources to power these dedicated sensors. The adoption of not only wireless sensor nodes, but also self-powered capabilities in the nuclear energy process is critical as it can address issues in the overall safety and longevity of nuclear power. The removal of wires for data and power transmission can greatly reduce the cost of both installation and upkeep of power plants, while self-powered capabilities can further reduce effort and money spent in replacing batteries, and importantly may enable sensors to work even in losses to power across the plant, increasing plant safety. This thesis outlines three harvesting opportunities in the nuclear energy process from: thermal, vibration, and radiation sources in the main structure of the power plant, and from thermal and radiation energy from spent fuel in dry cask storage. Thermal energy harvesters for the primary and secondary coolant loops are outlined, and experimental analysis done on their longevity in high-radiation environments is discussed. A vibrational energy harvester for large rotating plant machine vibration is designed, prototyped, and tested, and a model is produced to describe its motion and energy output. Finally, an introduction to the design of a gamma radiation and thermal energy harvester for spent nuclear fuel canisters is discussed, and further research steps are suggested.



Energy harvesting, Nuclear Power Plant, Wireless Sensor Node, Electromagnetic Generator, Compliant Mechanism, Thermoelectric Generator, Gamma Radiation, MCNP Simulation, Gamma Heating, Dry Cask Storage