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Research Highlight

ORNL, Molex to develop and provide market access to low-cost wireless sensors

Prototype of a Molex peel-and-stick wireless sensor developed with ORNL technology.

Efforts to bring ORNL’s wireless sensor platform to market are on target and proceeding as planned. In April 2015, ORNL formed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Molex, a premier international electronics manufacturer, to make the low-cost wireless sensors commercially available for buildings applications.

By September, Molex had produced functional prototypes of the peel-and-stick wireless sensors. The prototype, measuring 4.75 ´ 3 ´ 0.23 inches, is manufactured on a thin film containing photovoltaic cells that harvest energy from artificial indoor lighting and power a rechargeable battery. The platform includes integrated circuitry for sensor signal processing, onboard computation, wireless communication, and an antenna. 

The functionality of the node is optimized for building requirements to measure temperature, humidity, and light. The ultra-low-power smart sensors collect and send data to a receiver that can capture data from many different nodes and provide information to the controls of the energy-consuming system. ORNL has applied for a US patent for this technology.  

The ORNL–Molex team plans to develop updated functional prototypes that will satisfy the specific application requirements of an original equipment manufacturer of controls for supermarket systems. In addition, Molex will provide 200 samples for in situ field evaluation by May 2016. 

This project is sponsored by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Building Technologies Office. —Marlene Taylor