February 16, 2024
Conference Paper

Self-Powered Autonomous Sensing System for Arctic Ocean using a Frequency-multiplied Cylindrical Triboelectric Nanogenerator


An autonomous sensing system for collecting environmental observations in the Arctic region is critical for the estimation and prediction of climate change. Ocean waves are a great source of energy for these sensing systems but there has been limited research done on small-scale energy harvesting applications in the Arctic Ocean (subsea or surface). The available wave energy in the Arctic Ocean is lower than the typical ocean wave energy due to the low wave frequency, height, and operating months. Although the available wave energy depends on the specific location in the Arctic Ocean, the wave height decreases everywhere during the winter (Jan-March) [1]. Our target location in this work is the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, which are ice covered for about 195 days per year leaving only a few months (June-November) for wave energy harvesting [2]. During these few months, the average wave frequency is 0.2 Hz and the most common wave frequency is around 0.15 Hz. Many energy harvesting methods are unsuitable for use in the Arctic Ocean because of to the cold temperature, low wave frequency, and low wave height. Triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG) are one of the few energy harvesting methods that excel in these conditions. Zhong et al. [3] designed a stacked pendulum-structured TENG for low-frequency ocean wave energy and reported the device generated a peak power density of 11.2 W/m3 under the low wave frequency of 0.2 Hz. The autonomous sensing system we developed for the Arctic Ocean, the Arctic-TENG, is based on a frequency-multiplied cylindrical TENG (FMC-TENG) which is an optimized TENG configuration for Arctic Ocean conditions due to the high power density under low-frequency wave conditions [4]. Figure 1 shows an FMC-TENG with multiple pairs of free-standing triboelectric-layer mode materials (Aluminum and FEP). The mass and magnet attached to the rotor store gravitational potential energy which is released as kinetic energy when the potential energy overcomes the repulsive magnetic force generated by the opposing magnet attached to the stator. This force unbalance triggers a sudden rotation and swinging motion of the mass which increases the angular velocity of the system and therefore enhances the output power of the TENG system. The main components of the Arctic-TENG are a 3D-printed rotor and stator, electric and dielectric material adhesive tape, and bearings. All these materials were cold-soaked and tested at -40 °C in a chest freezer. Both the 3D-printed parts and adhesives were confirmed to have a minimal effect from the cold temperature. Multiple bearings were tested and the starting torque of each one was compared both at room temperature and -40 °C. The bearing with the lowest starting torque at -40 °C was selected for use in the Arctic-TENG. The Arctic-TENG was tested using an out-of-water motor-driven wave simulator (Figure 2). The wave simulator allows for controlled testing at a wave height of 0.2 m and frequencies between 0.1 Hz to 0.5 Hz. This wave simulator was used for both room temperature and -40 °C testing. The Arctic-TENG generated significantly more power at -40 °C compared to room temperature for each frequency tested. The system stored energy in a supercapacitor via a power management circuit, and the amount of energy stored per day was calculated at different wave frequencies. Based on the conditions at the proposed deployment location (days of non-ice-covered ocean and wave frequency), the amount of stored energy per year from Arctic-TENG was calculated to be enough energy for two transmissions every day. Durability testing was completed on the Arctic-TENG at room temperature to determine the lifetime. The rotor of the Arctic-TENG was attached to a DC motor and spun continuously for several millions of cycles without degradation of the electrical output, demonstrating the feasibility for long-term operation.

Published: February 16, 2024


Jung H., B. Friedman, H. Ouro-Koura, A.L. Salalila, J.J. Martinez, A.E. Copping, and R.A. Branch, et al. 2023. Self-Powered Autonomous Sensing System for Arctic Ocean using a Frequency-multiplied Cylindrical Triboelectric Nanogenerator. In OCEANS 2023, June 5-8, 2023, Limerick Ireland, 1-5. Hoboken, New Jersey:IEEE. PNNL-SA-183896. doi:10.1109/OCEANSLimerick52467.2023.10244599

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