Alyssa Kody earns NSF Fellowship for research in energy harvesting and wireless sensing

The small-scale embedded wireless systems Alyssa works with are used in a variety of applications spanning many fields; from structural to ocean engineering.

Alyssa Kody Enlarge

Alyssa Kody, a Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been awarded an NSF Fellowship as part of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program to pursue research in powering wireless embedded systems.

The small-scale embedded wireless systems Alyssa works with are used for sensing and actuation in a variety of applications spanning many fields, including structural, industrial, environmental, biomedical, aerospace, and ocean engineering. These applications can include anything from biomedical devices implanted in the human body to structural monitoring systems in buildings.

However, the field of wireless sensing consistently faces one critical bottleneck: power. For many embedded wireless networks, battery storage systems cannot supply sufficient power for these networks over their operational lifetimes. Consequently, research on energy harvesting for sensor networks has been an increasingly important area.

The goal of Alyssa’s project is to improve energy harvesting technology and decrease network power consumption by implementing what’s called “energy forecasting.” This would enable sensor nodes to predict energy availability in the future and make decisions based on this knowledge. In other words, she would give energy-aware decision making capabilities to a system.

In her previous work with energy harvesting, Alyssa determined a method to optimize power generation from piezoelectric energy harvesters subjected to a train of acceleration impulses. Piezoelectric systems use electromechanical devices to extract electrical power from vibrations, for use by other systems.

Her methodology maximizes energy generation while considering mechanical losses, electrical losses, and the static power required to activate control intelligence and facilitate power-electronic conversion. Calculating the optimal energy generation is framed as a feedback control problem, and the optimal feedback is found using linear quadratic optimal control techniques.

This work was presented at the Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures and Intelligent Systems Conference in 2014, as the paper, Optimal Energy Harvesting from Impulse Trains using Piezoelectric Transduction, by Alyssa Kody and Prof. Jeff Scruggs, her research advisor and associate professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Alyssa earned her B.S. in civil engineering at Tufts University in Medford, MA, where she did research on structural monitoring. Previously, she earned the 2013 Rackham Merit Fellowship and numerous fellowships and awards from Tufts. She has extensive involvement in outreach to public school schools, and worked on two projects for elementary and high school students last summer. In the Summer College Engineering Exposure Program, she worked with 11th graders in a two-week, multi-discipline design project, and in the K-12 Bridge Design Workshop she led five sessions for 2nd and 6-8th graders.