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The proper management of energy resources is essential for any wireless sensing system. With applications that span industrial, civil, and aerospace infrastructure, it is necessary for sensors and sensor nodes to be physically robust and power efficient. In many applications, a sensor network must operate in locations that are difficult to access, and often these systems have a desired operational lifespan which exceeds that of conventional battery technologies. In the present study, the use of microwave energy is examined as an alternate method for powering compact, deployable wireless sensor nodes. A prototype microstrip patch antenna has been designed to operate in the 2.4 GHz ISM band and is used to collect directed radio frequency (RF) energy to power a wireless impedance device that provides active sensing capabilities for structural health monitoring applications. The system has been demonstrated in the laboratory, and was deployed in field experiments on the Alamosa Canyon Bridge in New Mexico in August 2007. The transmitted power was limited to 1 W in field tests, and was able to charge the sensor node to 3.6 V in 27 s. This power level was sufficient to measure two piezoelectric sensors and transmit data back to a base station on the bridge.
Date of Publication: July 2009