The mission of the Enertive project is to reduce industrial energy cost, in particular by addressing waste heat and maintenance costs. In industry, poor monitoring and maintenance, defect and ageing equipment lead to 17% of heat loss. Reducing these losses is crucial, on the one hand in order to reduce the energy bills of industrialists, and on the other hand in order to limit CO2 emissions and the environmental impact of industries. Currently, too few industrial processes are optimized because there is no solution capable of easily pinpoint where improvements could be undertaken to reduce heat loss or trigger maintenance. Approximately 10% improvement can be achieved through the implementation of simple, low-cost solutions
The aim of this project is to develop a prototype heat flux sensor capable of being deployed in extreme environment (100-900°C). This heat flux sensor allows to directly quantify heat loss at locations of interest and thus reduce the energy bill through the implementation of simple solutions such as process monitoring, defect detection and conditional maintenance.
With the news funds a heat flux sensor prototype will be developed and tested. The business development strategy will be strengthened and an implementation partner found in order to test our prototype on field. Furthermore, follow-up financing demand will be submitted and a request for a patent application will be made.
What is special about the project?
The developed heat flux sensor will be developed using thermoelectric materials, which are materials capable of transforming a temperature gradient across their thickness into a voltage difference.
To operate it as a continuous monitoring device, a sensor and its electronics need to be supplied with (low) power (milliwatts), usually via cable wires, which industrial customers likely prefer to avoid, especially in safety-critical zones. The elegance of our idea is to use the materials properties to self-supply power to the sensor, which then transmits its measurement data wireless eliminating the cabling.
Our solution proposes advantages derived only thanks to thermoelectric materials: wireless, self-powered, non-intrusive, easily deployed, rugged, reliable and high-temperature compatible. The sensor, which we aim to prototype, is easy to integrate and more accurate, enabling it to monitor, or potentially control, industrial processes in real time. Its low cost and rugged resistance to rough industrial environments offers effective monitoring with the aim of reducing the high energy costs or maintenance/replacement cost of our clients or improving their process or component. As a special feature, our innovative additive manufacturing method may allow for geometrical flexibility of sensors that might better suit customer X or Y, depending on need or application.
This project is based on the result of Edouard Baer’s diploma work where thermoelectric materials powder have been shaped into samples by dry pressing, hot vacuum pressing and 3D printing using a novel additive manufacturing process. The capacity of these samples to transform heat into electricity have been measured. Moreover, a market analysis is in progress to validate our business model and adapt our first prototype to the need of industrialists.
Moreover, after the first stage of our project supported by the Gebert Rüf Siftung, we have developed a first heat flux sensor demonstrator for low temperatures (<150°C), this demonstrator contains our electronics allowing us to transmit data wirelessly to another acquisition system. We have also developed a test bench to measure the properties of the thermoelectric materials we manufacture.
This test bench allows us to start the design and dimensioning of our prototype heat flux sensor for high temperatures.
During stage n°2 we successfully built a thermoelectric generator with 3D printed materials, this generator will be the heart of our prototype sensor, being able to build it in house allows us to have control over the specificities of our future sensor and to meet the specific needs of manufacturers. This phase also allowed us to design and dimension the first prototype of a heat flow sensor that we would like to build during the next phase.
During stage n°3 we were able to build and test our prototype heat flux sensor for high temperatures (900°C). This step allows us to gain knowledge in high temperatures resistant materials. We are moving towards the realization of a high temperature prototype self-powered with embedded electronics
During stage n°4a with face the COVID-19 situation that slow us on technical plan of the project. We still manage to find a serious implementation partner with whom we write a future project to continue the development of our sensor. Moreover, we have implemented one of our prototype heat flux sensor (300°C) in a technical equipment in the HES-SO Valais in order to have our first “Use-case”.
At the end of the project we were able to realize and test in the laboratory several prototypes of thermal flow sensor operating at high temperature (900°C) with our own electronics that allows wireless data transmission to our data analysis program and self-powering of the sensor.
During this final phase, we managed to implement one of our sensors on a 3D metal printing machine at the HES-SO. Thermal simulations and measurements were carried out to validate the proper functioning of the sensor, we are currently storing measurement data in order to build a machine learning software.
An important objective of this final phase was to find an implementation partner and secure follow-up financing. We successfully found an industrial partner and we have written an Innosuisse project in collaboration HES-SO Valais / EPFL Valais. The interest of the industrial companies towards our project was confirmed thanks to this partnership that will allow us to develop our sensor directly on industrial process.
Overall, the project let us take a step forward towards our future product and allowed us to gain a lot of knowledge in a multitude of fields. The support of the Gebert Rüf Siftung foundation, The Ark foundation, HES-SO Valais-Wallis and the EPFL Valais-Wallis has been fundamental to the sustainability of the project both on the technical aspect and business aspect.
Baer, E. (2018). Mise en forme de matériaux thermoélectriques à base Mg2Si à partir de poudres [Travail de Bachelor]. Sion: HES-SO Valais, Haute école d’Ingénierie
Venture briefing HES-SO and EPFL Valais
, 28.10.2020Campus Energypolis
, 12.10.2020Ingénierie: projet Dynablue
, Interview Rôhne 04.09.2019 Les start-up de la HES-SO Valais cartonnent
, Le Nouvelliste, 17.07.2019Nouveau programme d'encouragement aux start-up de la HEI avec déjà trois jeunes pousses primées !
, 17.07.2019Die Wärme der Industrie weiterverwerten
, Radio Rottu interview and article, 17.4.2019EPFL Engineering Industry Day 2019, pitch videoCapteurs intelligents: une seconde jeune pousse valaisanne reçoit CHF 150'000
, Blog The Ark, 18.2.2019
Persons involved in the project
Last update to this project presentation 07.04.2021