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Tire Sensors of the Future

The common household tire gauge may soon turn obsolete thanks to self-powered RFID sensor tags currently in the works at The Ohio State University.

RFID is an acronym meaning Radio Frequency Identification. Once fully realized, the technology will not only allow drivers to check vehicle tire pressure wirelessly, but also document the number of tire rotations and list ongoing wear and tear. Additionally, as opposed to traditional battery-operated sensors, the technology is powered from the energy harvested by the movement of the tire itself.

Ohio State electrical and computer engineering third-year MS student, Navtej Singh Saini, presented this sensor research at the recent Consortium on Electromagnetic and Radio Frequencies (CERF), an event which highlighted numerous projects coming out of the ElectroScience Lab (ESL) at Ohio State. ESL serves as one of the largest radio frequency and optics research laboratories in the world.

Third-year ECE MS student Navtej Singh SainiSaini spoke about his research and how he sees it in a broad sense.

“The research is basically (the) development of smart tire sensors using radio frequency ID. The whole purpose of doing this is that current sensor technology for tires is limited and expensive. For example, a single tire pressure sensor costs $30 dollars, plus it has a battery and has to be replaced,” he said.

Saini also summed up the importance behind the RFID sensor technology.

“One of the goals is obviously tire safety and knowing where tires failed,” he said.

A 2012 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found cars driving on underinflated tires are three times more likely to be involved in a crash, compared to those driving under proper inflation. Underinflated tires can also lead to overheating and failure, while increasing the risk of rollovers in SUVs.

In terms of where this research can go in the future, Saini looks to the possibility of further uses and wider implementations.

“What I see more from this research is that this is not just limited to tires,” he said. “What we will be coming up with is a self-powered wireless sensor that is cheap and cost effective. Basically, it can be used in daily life – wireless networks where you can have multiple of these communicating with each other. These things already exist, but to bring them at low power, and with different energy-harvesting mechanisms, that is something that can be used in day to day life, like the internet.”

Saini collaborated on the RFID sensor research with ESL co-authors Shuai Shao, Asmina Kiourti, Robert Burkholder, and John Volakis.

Originally from India, Saini received his undergraduate degree from VIT University, a highly-acclaimed private engineering institution. In terms of his own future in the field of engineering, the student said he is interested in exploring both industry and academia opportunities, but neither route is set in stone.

“For now, I am split between a PhD and a job. I have never worked before in the industry so my goal is now to graduate and get industry experience, and maybe if I feel it is not up to what I expected, come back for a PhD. That’s something I don’t have much long term vision for,” he said, then considered, “but I feel like that is every student.”

Article contribution by ECE Student PR Writer, Stephanie Wise