Smart Energy

People's striving for comfort and quality of life goes hand in hand with the development of newer and more modern technical products. Energy consumption in the modern world is constantly rising. Availability, safety and efficiency of energy sources are gaining in importance. Smart Systems can help, either as autonomous units or with the appropriate networking, to monitor and optimize critical supply chains at every point. In addition, Smart Systems help to reduce energy consumption in buildings by means of networked sensors. These systems in turn supply themselves with ambient energy – without power plugs or batteries.

Energy monitoring

As a spin-off firm of the Institut für Mikrosystemtechnik of the University of Freiburg, cluster member SmartExergy WMS has developed radio modules for more efficient, decentralized cost-efficient monitoring and maintenance of photovoltaic power plants. The energy self-sufficient radio module makes it possible for the first time to monitor the functions of all photovoltaic modules in plants individually and economically.

Energy efficiency

The newly developed heating valve of cluster member Precision Motors Deutsche Minebea GmbH utilizes the difference in temperature between the heating element and the room to produce electrical energy and in this way can save 20% to 30% in energy.

Energy supply

Another important topic is Energy Harvesting: a microsystem “harvests” energy out of its environment – either by temperature differences, ambient light or the vibrations of a machine.

Under the direction of the Institut für Mikrosystemtechnik (IMTEK) of the University of Freiburg, a consortium from the leading cluster is working on an innovative energy supply concept. Sensors for process relevant dimensions such as temperature, humidity, gas composition and/or position and speed in a multichip assembly are integrated into a “smart label”. Energy input is assured from the outside at certain times by means of RFID technology. A rechargable fuel cell recharges itself and provides energy for the sensor system when running and thus facilitates an energy-autonomous operation. Such “smart” radio labels are being used, for example, in logistics.

“Saving energy begins with knowing where and how much energy is used and having the ability to regulate the use of energy intelligently. In the cluster microTEC Südwest, the most modern technologies and products are being developed and produced to support these essential tasks successfully.”

Prof. Dr. Holger Reinecke, Institute Director of IMTEK, Freiburg


Success stories

The electricity comes from out of the airmoreclose

Temperature sensor and control unit

Precision Motors Deutsche Minebea GmbH produces a heating valve that works without batteries and produces the electricity it needs by itself. The newly developed heating valve from PMDM utilizes the difference in temperature between the heating element and the room to produce  electrical energy by means of a thermoelectric generator (TEG). The temperature sensor and the control unit are connected in a home network. For each room the desired temperature can be individually selected by means of a central room control, or optionally by smartphone or tablet.

Using such heating valves means saving 20% to 30% of energy because of permanent valve regulation. About 400 million heating elements in Europe will be retrofitted in the coming years. This development was awarded the “Energy Harvester Award 2012” in the category of “Best Application of Energy Harvesting”.

Smart sensors in photovoltaicsmoreclose

Monitoring system for solar modules

SmartExergy WMS GmbH develops and sales ultra low power sensor networks. For the photovoltaics, the company has developed a monitoring system for solar modules in order to improve the safety and yield of photovoltaic systems. By means of a unique wake-up strategy, hundreds of thousands of modules are reachable on demand and can be individually and without loss queried and controlled via radio by only one communication unit. Radio sensors integrated into connector boxes constantly monitor the state of the individual modules of the photovoltaic system and transmit this state to a web-based software via a central communication port. If modules are damaged, dirty, or shaded, the wireless monitoring technology reports the problem. The affected solar module can be shut down and maintenance is arranged. Until now, identifying and solving problems have been complex issues. Often a great amount of time elapses before a fall in performance is noticed at all.

Furthermore, individual solar modules can be switched off with the sensors, for example with electric arc detection, for maintenance work or in the case of a shadow falling on the module, in order to increase the yield of the photovoltaic system. In case of fire, the complete system can be turned off by a central manual call point, thus increasing the safety of emergency services.