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Duo invent new method of powering tyre monitor.

Byline: GRAEME BROWN

Two Coventry inventors are to play a key role in the next generation of "intelligent tyres" after developing a new way to harvest power - and their work could lead to new jobs.

Geoff Haswell and Malcolm Caley have spent the last five years researching and developing a new power source for tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) that utilises the world's first proven piezo power source devised from a simple piezoceramic disc.

Backed by strategic support and mentoring from the Manufacturing Advisory Service - West Midlands, the enterprising duo have recorded impressive independent test results and are now targeting global licensing agreements that could generate millions of pounds in sales while securing and creating local jobs.

Mr Haswell said: "Currently tyre pressure monitoring systems are exclusively powered by batteries and this can be costly through having to replace the whole sealed unit when the batteries expire. As the units are sealed, the electronic components and the dead battery are difficult to dispose of in an environmentally safe way.

"Our response to this problem was the development of Piezotag, a unique piezoelectric device that is attached to the tyre and, thanks to unique design geometry, uses power harvested from the rotation of the tyre to collect and transmit tyre pressure and temperature information from the wheel to the driver," he added.

Mr Haswell, who has a background in mechanical engineering and plastic injection moulding, added: "The benefits are long and varied and range from greater accuracy and cost savings to flexibility of design and the creation of surplus power that can be used in other applications.

"The fact there is no battery also means we can use wire-free technology, which immediately reduces the number of components needed to transfer the information."

Development work for the Piezotag has taken more than five years, investment totalling pounds 800,000 and support from various organisations, such as Pera and the Warwick Manufacturing Group, and more recently from MAS-WM's Martin McKeever.

The specialist adviser was impressed with the company's ability to make the most of piezoelectricity, which utilises the ability of ceramic materials to generate electric potential in response to applied mechanical stress.

He has subsequently worked closely with the management team to develop its route to market, including introducing the duo to world-leading testing house Rapra, in Shawbury.

"This was a major breakthrough for Piezotag," said Mr Caley, who started his career with Birmingham engineering firm GKN.

"Using outstanding testing facilities in Shropshire, we were able to independently test our device at various speeds, conditions and distances for 'wear and tear' and volume of power generated," he added."The results were amazing and clearly showed that our ability to control the actuation of the ceramic disc meant that the product was free from any damage and, better still, the level of power created was way in excess of what was needed for a normal TPMS."

With the backing of the Rapra research and patents secured for Europe, China and the US, the inventors are hoping to explore the growing global market demand for intelligent tyres by targeting a host of tier one suppliers involved in car and commercial vehicle supply.

In particular, they are looking to use this proven track record in 'power harvesting' to influence the next generation of tyre by offering greater information on how the wheel performs.

That in turn can be used to improve the performance and dynamics of new models.

Mr McKeever said: "Piezotag has gone past just being a TPMS and now boasts a proven track record that could revolutionise the way the automotive industry operates.

"Yes there is work to do to demonstrate to the sector that this is what they want, but when they do switch on to the benefits, the potential for the business is huge.This is an invention born in the heart of the West Midlands and we will continue to support the management team as they look to fully commercialise their groundbreaking technology."

CAPTION(S):

Malcolm Caley and Geoff Haswell, of Piezotag, with Martin McKeever, of MAS-WM
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 6, 2009
Words:676
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