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Open Access Strategies of Maximum Power Point Tracking for Sub-mW Benthic Microbial Fuel Cells

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Benthic microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are promising alternatives to conventional batteries for powering underwater low-power sensors. Regarding performances (10's μW at 100's mV for cm 2-scale electrodes), an electrical interface is required to maximize the harvested energy and boost the voltage. Because the MFCs electrical behavior fluctuates, it is common to refer to maximum power point tracking (MPPT). Using a sub-mW flyback converter, this paper compares the benefit of different MPPT strategies: either by maximizing the energy at the converter input or at the converter output, or by fixing the MFC operating point at its nominal maximum power point. A practical flyback has been validated and experimentally tested for these MPPT options showing a gain in efficiency in certain configurations. The results allow determining a power budget for MPPT controllers that should not exceed this gain. Eventually, considering typical MFC fluctuations, avoiding any MPPT controller by fixing the converter operating parameters may offer better performances for sub-mW harvesters.

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Keywords: ENERGY HARVESTING; FLYBACK CONVERTER; LOW POWER ELECTRONICS; MICROBIAL FUEL CELL

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2019

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  • The electronic systems that can operate with very low power are of great technological interest. The growing research activity in the field of low power electronics requires a forum for rapid dissemination of important results: Journal of Low Power Electronics (JOLPE) is that international forum which offers scientists and engineers timely, peer-reviewed research in this field.
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