Energy-Harvesting Sensors Eliminate the Need for Batteries in Some Applications

Nov. 25, 2015
Energy-harvesting sensors that are made of fabric and eliminate the need for batteries in some applications are the focus of this podcast interview with Keith McMillen, CEO and founder of BeBop Sensors.

Energy-harvesting sensors that are made of fabric and eliminate the need for batteries in some applications are the focus of this podcast interview with Keith McMillen, CEO and founder of BeBop Sensors. Listen by clicking on the player above.

McMillen’s unique smart sensors–which grew out of his work creating musical instruments-can be used in numerous applications, including smart tires, gloves, game controllers and sensor insoles. They help solve numerous problems, McMillen says in this interview.

BeBop’s “Monolithic Fabric Sensor Technology” weaves sensors and electronics into fabric. The fabric can measure force, location, size, weight, shape, motion and presence. McMillen sees many possible applications in automative, health, sports and industrial markets for original equipment manufacturers.

One example is the automotive market, he explains in this interview. “The sensor goes into the tire and we measure acceleration and deceleration as it deforms. We can extract energy to power the sensors and send information. The sensors are inside the tire and use radio frequencies to transmit information.”
He adds that knowing the cross section of the tire provides information about safety and performance issues. “This can lead to safer anti-lock breaks.”
This example is an energy-saving application, McMillen notes. “We use the energy to power the sensors. We don’t have to put additional energy into the tires,” he says.
Another example is energy harvesting in the insole of shoes. As people walk in these shoes, they generate power. In this example, the information gathered by the sensors can be used to predict strokes, he says. “You can predict strokes based on how people walk,” he says.
Our focus is to have the sensors operate with as little intervention as possible. We do energy harvesting so we don’t need batteries.”
Since launching in the fourth quarter of 2014, BeBop has completed 14 new sensors for OEMs in numerous fields.
Listen to the interview with McMillen by clicking on the player above.
About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

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