Harvesting Thermal Energy for Low Power Arctic Sensors and Data Communications
Navy STTR 2020.A - Topic N20A-T023
ONR - Mr. Steve Sullivan firstname.lastname@example.org
Opens: January 14, 2020 - Closes: February 26, 2020 (8:00 PM ET)
TITLE: Harvesting Thermal Energy for Low Power Arctic Sensors and Data Communications
Arctic Mobile Observing System (AMOS) Innovative Naval Prototype (INP)
OBJECTIVE: Develop a
survivable capability to harness the Arctic Ocean/Air thermal gradient and
provide low power for persistent unmanned Arctic sensors and data
communications via Arctic Ocean buoys.
DESCRIPTION: The Navy
runs environmental models to provide forecasts for operational use in the
Arctic region. The Navy continues to invest in improved predictive capabilities
for the Arctic region that will enable more skillful forecasts from weeks to
months. A key challenge to modeling the Arctic is the lack of meteorological
and oceanographic observational data. Improvements in environmental
characterization and predicative capabilities will depend on increasing
measurements of the region [Ref 1].
As the Navy continues to implement a persistent unmanned presence in the Arctic
Ocean to achieve observational goals, new methods to generate power on site are
required in order to sense the environment and communicate data for
assimilation into operational models. Currently, unmanned Arctic buoys and
platforms carry batteries that take up weight and volume. Power generation via
solar and wind energy is available but compromised in the Arctic due limited
sunlight hours and harsh winds that require large, expensive structures for
survivability. Developing an innovative capability that uses the thermal
gradient between Arctic Air and Ocean to generate in-situ power will allow the
Navy to harvest an existing energy resource and improve persistence of
observations in the region.
Thermal gradients between air and ocean surfaces in the Arctic, expressed as
temperature differences and heat flow, can be directly converted into
electrical energy [Ref 2]. While there are many factors that affect the entire
Arctic Energy Budget, air temperature is a measure of the amount of energy held
in the air, while ocean surface temperature is a measure of the amount of solar
energy absorbed or reflected in the upper surface. Arctic air temperatures vary
widely from -50 to 32°C while Arctic Ocean surface temperatures vary less with
yearly averages between -1.8 to 3°C [Ref 3]. These thermal gradients are
adequate to generate low power levels.
The Navy seeks an innovative prototype solution to harvest Arctic Ocean thermal
energy in-situ and provide low power levels to sensors and data communications
while integrated onto a free floating or ice-tethered Arctic buoy such as an
Autonomous Arctic Ocean Flux Buoy (AFOB) or Ice Tethered Arctic Profiling Buoy.
The planned energy persistence level is one year for low power environmental
and oceanographic observational sensors as well as gateway buoy data
communications. The desired performance is a 500W thermal harvesting system
that can be incorporated into a standard Arctic oceanographic buoy and
potentially in a configuration that is moored to the ice. The highest
performance risk is the survivability of the energy generator in the harsh
Arctic environment. The highest known technical risk is addressing the energy
efficiency of generating power given the relatively low thermal gradient that
exists on a daily average in the Arctic.
PHASE I: Define and
develop a concept for a prototype that can meet the performance and technical
requirements listed in the Description. Determine optimal locations and
approach for integration and deployment of the prototype onto an Arctic buoy
platform. Develop a Phase II plan.
Note: An Oceanographic Research Institute can contribute to all phases of this
research. Oceanographers familiar with the Arctic can inform the team about
ocean circulation, temperature-salinity environments, currents, winds and other
environmental factors that the innovative prototype will need to address.
Oceanographers can provide specific power loads required from environmental and
oceanographic sensors and data communications.
PHASE II: Construct a
prototype using the expertise of research institute ocean engineers to inform
the team of valuable lessons learned from previous Arctic platforms, which will
drive down technical and performance risk.
PHASE III DUAL USE
APPLICATIONS: Integrate the Phase II prototype onto an Arctic buoy that will be
deployed in September of 2022 as part of the Arctic Mobile Observing System
(AMOS) Innovative Naval Prototype program. During Phase III, research
institution technicians can provide invaluable insight about deploying a
research prototype in the Arctic.
Dual use applications for this system would include commercial and non-DoD
maritime needs such as ROV operations for the Oil and Gas Industry and non-DoD
navigation and environmental monitoring in remote locations.
1. “Strategic Outlook
for the Arctic.” Chief of Naval Operations, The United States Navy, January
2. Piggott, Alfred. “How
Thermoelectric Generators Work.” Applied Thermoelectric Solutions LLC, 24 Oct.
3. Timmermans, M.L. and
Proshutinsky, A. “Sea Surface Temperature.” Arctic Essays, November 25, 2015. https://arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card/Report-Card-2015/ArtMID/5037/ArticleID/220/Sea-Surface-Temperature
KEYWORDS: Thermal Energy
Generation; Low Power for Sensors; Arctic Sensors; Arctic Mobile Observing
System; Thermoelectric Generator; Persistent Sensing