Energy neutral operation of vibration energy-harvesting sensor networks for bridge applications
greatly benefit from the use of wireless sensor networks (WSNs), however energy harvesting for the operation of the network remains a challenge in this setting. While solar and wind power are possible and credible solutions to energy generation, the need for positioning sensor nodes in shaded and sheltered locations, e.g., under a bridge deck, is also often precluding their adoption in real-world deployments. In some scenarios vibration energy harvesting has been shown as an effective solution, instead. This paper presents a multihop vibration energy-harvesting WSN system for bridge applications. The system relies on an ultra-low power wireless sensor node, driven by a novel vibration based energy-harvesting technology. We use a receiver-initiated routing protocol to enable energy-efficient and reliable connectivity between nodes with different energy charging capabilities. By combining real vibration data with an experimentally validated model of the vibration energy harvester, a hardware model, and the COOJA simulator, we develop a framework to conduct realistic and repeatable experiments to evaluate the system before on-site deployment. Simulation results show that the system is able to maintain energy neutral operation, preserving energy with careful management of sleep and communication times. We also validate the system through a laboratory experiment on real hardware against real vibration data collected from a bridge. Besides providing general guidelines and considerations for the development of vibration energy-harvesting systems for bridge applications, this work highlights the limitations of the energy budget made available by traffic-induced vibrations, which clearly shrink the applicability of vibration energy-harvesting technology for WSNs to applications that do not generate an overwhelming amounts of data.