Silent Sensors

Creating intelligent tyres through piezoelectric harvesting

The challenge

Major tyre manufacturers and fleet operators face ongoing challenges about road safety, carbon emissions, and lifespan of their products. Poor tyres cause a significant amount of road accidents, increase fuel consumption, and repair costs. 

With a growing requirement for accurate, real-time data about tyre condition and performance, CPI collaborated with Silent Sensors – a company using piezoelectric harvesting (converting mechanical vibrations into electrical energy) to power smart sensors in tyres – and the University of Bath to create a Tyre Management System (TMS) for vehicles. The project was funded by Innovate UK

The challenge was to develop novel energy harvesting elements to extract energy from the tyre, and then supply power to sensor devices which relay information about the tyre in real time. 

How CPI helped

  • Used our industry-leading expertise and facilities at the National Printable Electronics Centre 
  • Fabricated, tested and understood power that can be harvested 
  • Understood operating temperature window and lifetime of energy harvesting system (EH/S) transducer 
  • Identified suitable materials, processes and configurations for printing sensors on flexible substrates so RFID tags could be integrated into the tyre 

Achievements

  • Early-stage prototype of energy harvesting system element alongside a sensing microcontroller unit and RFID circuit capable of relaying data remotely without connection to the tyre 
  • Printed kinetic energy harvesting element 
  • Sensing devices to enable real time monitoring of tyre performance of a truck 
  • Technology able to manage tyres throughout the supply chain 

Impact

Together with the University of Bath and Silent Sensors, we helped develop a prototype for an energy harvesting element and created a sensing device that can monitor tyre performance in real time. 

Compared to manual checks, the TMS offers a more accurate insight into tyre condition. Due to the continuous stream of data, fleet operators can monitor a driver’s behaviour and use data to inform the manufacturing process, the running of the vehicle on the road, its maintenance, repair, re-treading and eventual recycling. 

The overall impact of this technology is far reaching – better tyre condition means fewer road accidents, a reduction in carbon emissions, and reduced maintenance and repair costs. Drivers could be warned in real-time about safety or performance issues, creating a safer environment on the road and reducing impact on the planet. Extending a tyre’s life by making informed, timely decisions also has major paybacks for fleet operators throughout the tyre’s lifecycle. 

In the future, intelligent tyres also have the potential to be integrated into autonomous vehicles. This solution could also be used in polymers and elastomers, potentially leading to applications in protective equipment, submarine equipment, and dairy farming. 

Silent sensors will hopefully become part of the whole tyre lifecycle, leading to safer roads and a cleaner environment. 

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