Newswise — BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – A research team led by faculty at Binghamton University, State University at New York plans to improve wireless sensor networks with a relatively new type of technology that harnesses energy from the biological photosynthetic process.

Binghamton University Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Seokheun “Sean” Choi was recently awarded a $510k grant from the Office of Naval Research for his project titled “Supercapacitive micro-bio-photovoltaics for sustainable wireless sensor networks.” The project will attempt to create a micro-device that uses what is called bio-photovoltaic (BPV) technology to act as a supercapacitator capable of improving wireless sensing and communication.

Bio-photovoltaic technology stems from the idea that instead of using something like solar panels, scientists could use a cyanobacterial photosynthesis process to harness the sun’s energy and convert that into usable electricity.

This novel idea could be the future of sustainable technology, and Choi’s proposed plan will add to the fundamental understanding of how to harness this energy.

Once energy is harnessed via the micro-device, Choi plans to use the device as a supercapacitor this will make wireless sensor networks (WSNs) sustainable.

WSNs, also known as dust networks, consist of wireless sensors that monitor environmental conditions and base stations that collect and relay that information as needed. These networks can monitor everything from the temperature to the noise levels outside. Currently, WSNs are used to monitor temperatures in the Arctic, track vehicles, observe livestock and more.

“I hope this project will give us WSNs that are self-sustaining and serve as a way to improve the efficiency and performance levels of these networks,” said Choi. “I’m also excited for what this study could mean for BPV technology in the future.”

The project will provide a way to understand more about what is involved in the design of a micro-BPV device. This could lead to more researchers being able to apply BPV technology to create sustainable, innovative solutions to our energy needs.