Travelling light

01 February 2011

The power-efficient wireless technology of Radiometrix is helping British academia.

The company’s TX3B-869.85-64 and RX3A-869-10 radio modules are being used by the Engineering Department of Durham University to monitor the performance of their solar-powered racer.

The Durham University Solar Car (DUSC) has a steel space frame construction with a carbon fibre body shell. This makes it incredibly light and ensures energy is not expended unnecessarily. The high efficiency photovoltaic cells that cover its outer surface are able to produce 1.4 kW of power, allowing the vehicle to reach a maximum speed of 56 mph.

The Radiometrix products being used in the DUSC’s telemetry system allow the transfer of information to the chase vehicle that follows behind it. The team engineers can therefore gain access to a continuous stream of real-time data on the voltages/currents passing through the DUSC’s circuitry and on how much solar energy is being received.

The Radiometrix TX3B-869.85-64 transmitter located in DUSC has a 32mm x 12.5mm x 3.8mm form factor and can deliver a 7 dBm (5 mW) RF output and supports 64kbps data rates. This is complemented by the RX3A-869-10 receiver, which is placed in the chase vehicle. When paired with the TX3B, the new RX3G receiver allows a reliable data link to be implemented up to a range of 300m. Both the transmitter and the new RX3G receiver comply with the ETSI EN 300 220 and EN 301 489-3 standards.

These modules are suitable for a variety of different applications. These include vehicle data upload/download, data logging, asset tracking/management systems, industrial telemetry/telecommand systems, and high performance security/fire alarms.

“There were several criteria that needed to be met with regard to the radio communications system for the DUSC. Clearly as much of the energy converted by the photovoltaic cells as possible has to be devoted to propulsion, and as a result low power operation for the radio transmitter was therefore vital,” states Steve Wilson, DUSC Project Leader. “Likewise, in order to ensure that energy was not wasted, the transmitter had to be lightweight and take up minimal space.”

DUSC is a student-led project that was established in 2004. The team, which consists of fifteen people (mainly undergraduates, with a few post graduates and an academic supervisor) has competed in several prestigious international contests. In October 2011, they will take part in the Global Green Challenge; a 3000km race for solar-powered vehicles across Australia from Darwin to Adelaide.

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