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Wireless sensor networks are constrained by limited battery energy. Thus, finite network lifetime is widely regarded as a fundamental performance bottleneck. Recent breakthrough in the area of wireless power transfer offers the potential of removing this performance bottleneck, i.e., allowing a sensor network to remain operational forever. In this paper, we investigate the operation of a sensor network under this new enabling energy transfer technology. We consider the scenario of a mobile charging vehicle periodically traveling inside the sensor network and charging each sensor node's battery wirelessly. We introduce the concept of renewable energy cycle and offer both necessary and sufficient conditions. We study an optimization problem, with the objective of maximizing the ratio of the wireless charging vehicle (WCV)'s vacation time over the cycle time. For this problem, we prove that the optimal traveling path for the WCV is the shortest Hamiltonian cycle and provide a number of important properties. Subsequently, we develop a near-optimal solution by a piecewise linear approximation technique and prove its performance guarantee.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2012