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2011 International Conference on Networking, Sensing and Control

Delft, the Netherlands, 11-13 April 2011

Power Harvesting for Smart Sensor Networks in Monitoring Water

Distribution System
M. I. Mohamed, W. Y. Wu, and M. Moniri

monitoring water infrastructure are for water quality sensors

and hydraulic. Water quality monitors get standard drinking
water parameter such as pH, free chlorine, oxidation,
dissolved oxygen, etc and implement an early contamination
warning system (CWS) for contaminant intrusion.
Moreover, hydraulic sensors are monitoring hydraulic state
such as pressure and flow, and potentially also for detecting
different failure mechanisms such as leaks and burst events
[3, 4]. The current technology relies on inspection and
regular assessment techniques which are not enough for
monitoring water infrastructure in order to detect failures
and changes in water distribution system. Continuous
monitoring water infrastructure using smart sensor and
wireless sensor networks is ideal and has the potential to
save annual operation cost by predicting the behavior of the
assets in the long run and improve the safety of drinking
water supplied to the consumers because of its rapid
response to any change in the behavior of water
infrastructure. There are many challenges facing the
continuous monitoring of water distribution system. One of
them is limited power resources for operating the smart
sensors and sensor networks which monitor underground
water pipeline for sensing, processing, and communicating.
The current technology of smart sensor relies on the batteries
to supply required power. Batteries have many drawbacks
such as short life time, contain hazard chemicals and need to
be replaced on regular basis which is uneconomical and
unmanageable in hard access environment such as buried
underground water pipelines. While, several techniques have
been proposed to maximize battery life time for monitoring
such as improving routing protocols, however, the life time
of the battery still remains finite and battery replacement
causes a lot of errors and data missing. Hence, the ability to
operate sensors autonomously without using batteries would
be ideal for continuous monitoring of the pipeline
significantly. Therefore, investigation of sensor node and
sensor networks which uses the energy harvested from
ambient environment in the water pipeline would enhance
continuous monitoring of water industry and reduce
maintenance cost. System architecture of wireless sensor
network using power harvesting to monitor water
distribution system is illustrated in fig. 1. This paper surveys
latest improvements in energy harvesting techniques and

Abstract__ Recently, there has been a growing interest in using

wireless sensor networks for monitoring water distribution
infrastructure to help drinking water utilities to have better
understanding of hydraulic and water quality statement of
their underground assets. One of the challenges is limited
power resources for operating the smart sensors and sensor
networks. Current common used power supplies for sensor
node are batteries. Batteries have many drawbacks such as
short life time and need to be replaced on regular basis which is
uneconomical and unmanageable in hard access environment
such as buried underground water pipelines. Energy harvesting
of ambient energy in the water pipeline and powering wireless
sensor node including sensing, processing, and communications
would be particularly attractive option because the life time of
the node will be potentially infinite for supporting wireless
sensor networks. The paper will review and discuss the
potential of using power harvesting techniques for monitoring
water distribution networks and the work done in the area of
monitoring water distribution systems using smart sensor

Index Terms Water distribution network, wireless sensor

network, Power harvesting.



ireless smart sensors have become an attractive option

in many applications including monitoring, tracking,
and control. Furthermore, wireless smart sensors
which are attached in pipe material have many advantages
over wired sensors for monitoring water infrastructure
including low cost of deployment and maintenance, more
secure, support for various data rate and ease of locating the
position of the fault [1, 2]. Commonly used sensors in

Manuscript received October 25, 2010. The authors gratefully

acknowledge financial support from Next Generation Infrastructure (NGI)
project entitled Smart sensor and sensor network for monitoring and
assessment of water infrastructure.
M. I. Mohamed is with the Faculty of Computing, Engineering &
W. Y. Wu is with the Faculty of Computing, Engineering & Technology,
Staffordshire University, Stafford, UK, correspondent (e-mail:
M. Moniri is with the Faculty of Computing, Engineering &
Technology, Staffordshire University, Stafford, UK (email: M.Moniri

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analyze the challenges of applying harvesting techniques to

monitor water distribution network.

wireless part is served as a backup. This research also has

investigated power management and efficient routing for
wireless sensor nodes to extend the life of the sensor
network. The drawback of the hybrid network architecture is
that it is very expensive and complex to be set up and to
support its maintenance in underground pipelines.
PipeSense is presented in [7], which is a framework for inpipe water monitoring. Low frequency RFID (Radio
Frequency Identification) based sensor node are used. The
proposed system uses low frequency range from 100 kHz to
150 kHz because high frequencies cannot penetrate water
efficiently and very low power frequencies need very long
antenna to work efficiently which is not practical. PipeSence
provided embedded software for sensor model along with
software support for the data hub. The drawback of the
above system is that the embedded software is without
optimizing management of the energy consumption in the
sensor node.
In [8] a general framework to continuous monitoring
distributed system using acoustic sensor networks is
proposed. A network of Lead Zirconate Titanate (PZT)
sensors provide a real-time continuous and automatic
monitoring of the health of the pipeline. Lamb waves are
used as guide to ultrasonic waves for transmission and
detection. The drawback of using that system in water
pipeline is that it does not consider the effect of vibration
distortion on acoustic waves.

Figure 1: System architecture of wireless sensor network

using power harvesting in distribution system
The paper is organized as follows. In section II research
work in the area of monitoring water distribution system by
sensor networks is reviewed and the limitations are
highlighted. In section III current energy harvesting
techniques are discussed, especially in vibration energy
harvesting. In section IV several related application in
harvesting power from fluid are presented. In section V
optimal power management algorithms used to optimize the
performance of the sensor node are highlighted. In section
VI potential challenges of this research are discussed.

Research related to monitoring water distribution system has

increased the last decade. Continuous monitoring is critical
to detect any change in water quality or pipeline health. The
state of the art in using sensor networks for monitoring water
distribution system is reviewed below.

B. Sensing and processing

PipeNet [9] is a developed monitoring system to collect
hydraulic and vibration parameters in real time operation at
high sampling rate. Algorithms to analyze the data to collect
and locate leaks are also developed. Intel mote2 with Xscale
processor is used for dynamic voltage and frequency scaling
capability for energy efficiency. The problem is that high
sample rates need aggressive duty cycle and ensure tightly
time synchronized data collection. However, the sensor node
is relying on the battery as the only power source. As a
consequence of this issue they have long time periods
without receiving data because the sensor nodes run out of

A. System architecture of sensor network

Stoianov et al. [5] developed a prototype monitoring system
to monitor hydraulic and water quality parameter using
wireless sensor network. This research work provides
operational challenges of using sensor network as well as
hardware and software limitation to manage large scale
water supply system. The proposed system consists of three
tiers which are sensor nodes, cluster head and gateway, and
middleware and back-end. The problem of this system is that
the sensor nodes in many locations do not have access to
power and depend on battery operation. Therefore, the big
challenge of the above research investigation was how to
utilize the communication distance, bandwidth and
processing with low power consumption. The research
concludes that the batteries have to be replaced every 60
days which is unpractical and uneconomical under extreme
outdoor conditions.
Hybrid sensor network architecture for monitoring pipeline
infrastructure has been suggested in [6], the architecture is
an integrated wired and wireless network. The wired part of
the network is considered the primary network and the
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C. Communications protocols
Several communication protocols are suggested to prolong
the life time of the sensor network for pipeline monitoring.
Jawhar et al presented in [1, 10] a routing protocol for linear
structure wireless sensor networks named ROLS. The
system tries to take advantage of the linear structure to
increase the reliability, efficiency and maximize the sensor
node battery life time.
In [11] another routing algorithm is proposed based on
graded residual energy (GRE) of the sensor node to utilize

the energy in the sensor nodes which lead to maximizing the

whole network lifetime. The problem of using direct multi
hop routing is that the nodes closest to the sink will consume
more power and run out of battery quickly because these
nodes send more data at a time. While in the case of single
hop it is obvious that the node which is far away from the
sink will run out of battery first.
In [12] self-sustainable sensor network model for pipeline
monitoring is presented. It provides several algorithms for
- Algorithm to determine if the network is connected
for a given sample rate.
- Algorithm to compute maximum sampling rate.
- Algorithm to compute number of sink nodes
required for a specific sample rate.

Piezoelectric converter has been proven to be one of the best

techniques to harvest energy from vibration sources due to
its advantages. The advantages of using of techniques are:
No voltage source is needed.
- Generate power with higher efficiency.
- Produce higher voltage level.
- Suitable for use with resonant devices.
- Have quick response.
- Easy to design.
But, it has some disadvantages such as leakage of charge due
to the natural of piezoelectric material and depolarization.
B. Electromagnetic mechanism
The environment vibrations are used to make relative motion
between a coil and magnetic field causes the current to flow
in the coil which is typical use of Faradays law [29]. The
advantages of that technique are that no voltage source is
required and it is more reliable. However the disadvantages
are the size and the production of lower voltage level than

The drawback can also be noticed that this work assume that
the node with power harvest generates constant amount of
power per unit time. That assumption is not practical
because the power generated varied with time and the above
work does not provide any detail about the type of the power
harvest used.

C. Electrostatic mechanism
Electrostatic generators use vibrations to separate the plates
of an initially charged variable capacitor against the force of
the electrostatic attractions. The main advantage of
electrostatic mechanism is that it is easy to integrate into
Microsystems (MEMS). But, the main drawback is that it
needs external power source.
In order to maximize the energy generated, the resonant
frequency of the harvester device should be matched to the
fundamental vibration frequency. Many efforts have been
conducted to optimize the performance of the energy
harvester in different applications, for example: in [13]
Guoliand et al. succeeded to optimize piezoelectric power
harvested system using genetic algorithm from vibration
generated from car passing over a manhole cover. Moreover,
Wang et al. in [14] suggested an integrated approach
between mechanical and electrical parts to model and
optimize the performance of the energy harvester using
Hardware Description Language (HDL).


Energy harvesting is a method of powering wireless
electronic device by harvesting ambient energy sources such
as environmental vibrations, solar, radio frequency (RF) and
human power. Harvesting energy from the environment is
not new but it has been used from hundreds of years to
generate energy from wind and water flow. The field of
energy harvesting is large and growing rapidly as a result of
recent advances in low power electronics along with low
duty cycle of wireless sensor node which have reduced
power requirements to the range of hundreds of microwatts
make it feasible to use the harvesting energy as power
supply for wireless sensor networks. Moreover, Energy
harvesting techniques have a potential to address the tradeoff
between the quality of the service and life time of the sensor
node. Flow-induced vibration is one of potential energy
resources to be harvested in water distribution system.
Therefore, this paper will focus on flow induced vibration as
a power source in water pipeline network. There are a
number of research publications concerned with vibration as
a power source. However, There are three basic mechanisms
by which one can convert vibrations to electrical energy:
piezoelectric, electromagnetic, and electrostatic.



Several investigations based on fluid dynamic power

harvester designs have been proposed to convert fluid flow
to electrical energy. Techniques used as power harvester can
be classified into mechanical parts and non mechanical parts.

A. Piezoelectric mechanism

A. Power Harvesting using mechanical parts

The piezoelectricity means electricity resulting from

pressure when the piezoelectric material is placed under
stress, electrical charges appear across the material.
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G. Kokossalakis [15] proposed energy harvester from wave

and water tides using hydraulic turbine inside the pipeline

with maximum efficiency of 35%. Specific equation is given

to calculate the generated power which is approximately 1
Another research paper [16] proposed the same technique as
a solution of sensor power. The advantage of this technique
is that it generates enough power for wireless sensor node.

performance. Prediction algorithm of the harvested energy is

essential to manage the power consumption in the sensor
node. The power consumption and the operation of the
sensor node can be optimized by predicting the amount of
energy being harvested then modify its parameter to scale its
energy consumption for example sampling rate, transmission
power, packet routing decision and duty cycle. Prediction of
the generated power from the harvester device is not trivial
task. The amount of energy can be generated from flow in
the pipe depends upon many parameters including efficiency
of the power harvester in converting ambient energy to
electrical energy, flow rate, pressure and the pipe geometry.
Several algorithms have been reported to predict future
availability of energy over the time from solar energy [2123]. For example, in [21], kansal et al have developed a
framework to exploit the energy resources more efficiently
for uncontrolled and predictable environment such as solar
energy by learning the energy properties of the environment
and predicts future energy availability. The prediction
algorithm is based on the assumption that energy generation
at any time of the day is similar to that generated at the same
time in the previous day. A similar scenario can be
addressed for water pipeline but depending on hydraulic
scenario and water supply pattern, so the behavior of power
harvesting in water pipeline network also can be predicted.

B. Power harvesting using non mechanical parts

In [17] S. Pobering presented a very promising technique for
harvesting power from fluid in general without using any
rotating parts. It consists of bluff body contact with
piezoelectric cantilever to generate vibration on the
cantilever by flow disturbing. The available power can be
estimated by a given formula depending on the velocity and
the density of the fluid. The research claim that about 0.1
mW is obtained from air flow velocities 35m/s. One should
have in mind that the design of the cantilever is not
optimized and the density of the water is approximately
1000 times higher than air; so, one can suppose that this
device will generate more power from water flow with
optimal design.
Wang et al [18] developed new piezoelectric harvester based
on the vibration induced by liquid flow. The minimum
voltage and instantaneous power generated from this device
are 2.2 Vpp and 0.2 W respectively at pressure 1.196 kPa
and frequency 26 Hz. Finite element model is established to
estimate the output voltage of the harvester.


The target of using smart sensor in distribution system is
continuous monitoring hydraulic and water quality
parameters to improve optimal routine operation and detect
any failure on the long run. Continuous monitoring is
aggressive power consumer, therefore renewable power
source is needed to reduce maintenance cost and prolong the
life time of the whole network. Power harvesting may
provide a solution for the power supply problem for
continuous monitoring in this field. This paper will analysis
and discuss the challenges of the power harvesting for
continuous monitoring in water distribution network,
particular focus on a sensor node of wireless sensor network.

Taylor et al [19] proposed a new harvester device which

converts mechanical flow energy in oceans and rivers to
electrical energy using piezoelectric polymers. The device
has the potential to generate from milli-watts to many watts
depending on system size and flow velocity of the water.
In [20] electromagnetic energy harvester is developed for
harvesting energy from flow induced vibration. They
claimed that it can produce output voltage 10.2 mVpp and
instantaneous 0.4 W under excitation frequency of 30 Hz
and pressure 254 Pa. They also use finite element model to
estimate how much power will be generated from the
harvester. The drawback is that the instantaneous power
generated is still small and it cannot be the only source of
power for sensor node in active mode.

A. Potential resources for power harvest

Choosing an appropriate one between available resources
and techniques according to how much power will be
generated, feasibility to integrate in sensor node and deploy
within the water pipelines is one of the challenges. The two
types of energy harvesting sources that seem most applicable
in the water pipe are water flow and flow-induced vibration.
In the case of generating energy from water flow inside the
pipe directly using mechanical parts like turbine, the
advantage of this technique that it can generate enough
amount of power. While, the drawbacks are that it is very



One of the main challenges for powering smart sensor

networks from power harvester is to optimize the
performance of the sensor according to the variation of the
harvested energy over time. The sensor node after the use of
power harvester does not need to limit its performance
anymore as in the case of battery but needs to optimize its
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hard to install in pipelines and integrate in the sensor node

because of it has big size and must be pre-deployed in the
pipelines making it inappropriate for the existing ones. The
other potential solution is using water flow induced
vibration. This technique uses small parts and easy to
integrate in the sensor node but need further research to
increase the energy generated efficiency and optimize the
power generated to be appropriate for powering wireless
sensor node.

distribution system has hazard problems. Rechargeable

batteries are not environmentally friendly because they
content heavy metals such as lean or nickel. Supercapacitors
can be a good alternative as they have a lot of advantages
such as longer life time in terms of charging cycles, lower
leakage and environmentally friendly.
E. Integration
Most of the works have been reported in the area of energy
harvesting concern in the energy harvester itself as
individual device.
Integrate different parts such as
communication, processing, sensing, power harvesting along
with power management algorithm is needed to optimize the
performance of the sensor node in water distribution

B. Estimate generated power

Estimate the generated power from flow induced vibration is
not trivial task. The amount of energy from vibration
induced in the pipe depends upon many parameters
including flow rate, pressure and the pipe geometry.
Accurate simulation model is needed to expect the
performance of the harvester device in real life. One of the
potential methods to estimate the generated power is Finite
Element Method (FEM). It has been used by several
researches to estimate the generated voltage [24-26]. The
Finite Element Method is powerful tool for solving
complex elasticity and structural
analysis problems
complicated and changed domains such as pipelines.

Continuous monitoring using wireless sensors networks is
needed to monitor water quality and hydraulic parameter to
predict the behavior of the water distribution system in the
long run and improve the safety of drinking water supplied
for the consumers because of its rapid response to any
change in the behavior of hydraulic and water quality. Power
harvesting techniques may provide a solution for the power
supply problem for continuous monitoring. The previous
researches in the area of smart sensor networks for
monitoring water distribution system have been reviewed
and the challenges in designing wireless sensor networks
which are powered by power harvesting from ambient
environment for continuous monitoring water distribution
system have been discussed in this paper.

C. Communication
Communication is one of the critical issues in monitoring
water distribution system. One can classify the
communication channel into outside and inside the pipe. In
case of outside the pipe communications, Trinchero et al in
[27] discussed the possibility of establish wireless sensor
network buried underground. In [28] (RF) is affected by the
presence of surrounding soil components which is lossy
medium causing fast fading effect and restricted by
landscape limitation. The second option is in-pipe
communications which uses the water pipe itself as a
communication channel by using low frequency Radio
frequency identification (RFID) [2, 7] or acoustics
communications [8. 15] to communicate between the nodes.
Therefore, further investigation is needed to determine
which transmission medium is more suitable for
transmission data in terms of low power consumption and
reliability as well as determine the power budget of
transceiver and range of communication required. Moreover,
communication protocols must ensure minimal power
required along with reliability and accuracy of the data

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