An Energy-Harvesting Power Supply for Underwater Bridge Scour Monitoring Sensors


The natural force of scouring has become one of the most critical risk endangering the endurance of bridges, thus leading to the necessity of deploying underwater monitoring sensors to actively detect potential scour holes under bridges. Due to the difficulty in re-charging batteries for underwater sensors, super capacitors with energy harvesting (EH) means are exploited to prolong the sustainability of underwater sensors. In this paper, an energy harvesting power supply based on a helical turbine is proposed to power underwater monitoring sensors. A small helical turbine is designed to convert water flow energy to electrical energy with favorable environmental robustness. A 3-inch diameter, 2.5-inch length and 3-bladed helical turbine was designed with two types of waterproof coupling with the sensor housing. Both designs were prototyped and tested under different flow conditions and we get valid voltage around 0.91 V which is enough to power monitoring sensor. The alternating current (AC) electrical energy generated by the helical turbine is then rectified and boosted to drive a DC charger for efficiently charging one super capacitor. The charging circuit was designed, prototyped and tested thoroughly with the helical turbine harvester. The results were promising, that the overall power supply can power an underwater sensor node with wireless transceivers for long-term operations.

Meeting Name

Nondestructive Characterization and Monitoring of Advanced Materials, Aerospace, Civil Infrastructure, and Transportation XII (2018: Mar. 5-8, Denver, CO)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Research Center/Lab(s)

Intelligent Systems Center

Keywords and Phrases

3D Model; Computational Fluid Dynamic Analysis; DC-DC Converter; Helical Turbine; Hydrodynamic Design; Smart Rock; Super Capacitor.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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Publication Date

01 Mar 2018