Mechatronic Systems Engineering

‘Smart’ tires part of $2.6 million for research

February 28, 2011

Charging your car battery may soon be something your tires can do. Researchers in Simon Fraser University’s Mechatronics Systems Engineering (MSE) program are developing highly advanced and self-energized “smart” sensors for vehicle tires and bicycles, using wireless transmission modules and micro sensors.

Farid Golnaraghi, MSE director, and a team of graduate students and faculty members are working with Maple Ridge based Future Vehicle Technologies, which builds electric cars, to develop suspension systems that convert vibrations transmitted through tires to charge batteries.

“Sensors embedded in the tires capture every bit of the road, measuring things like road applied forces, tire pressure and temperature, and convert the movement into electricity,” explains Golnaraghi, whose team began the research last fall.

The sensors’ role will also lead to better driving efficiency, he predicts.

A $300,000 grant from the province’s Natural Resources and Applied Sciences (NRAS) endowment – along with a $90,000 investment from the company that will also generate matching funds - will help further the three-year project.

The NRAS endowment is providing $6.9 million to 24 of B.C.’s top researchers, Premier Gordon Campbell announced last week.

Golnaraghi, who participated in the announcement on the behalf of all the researchers, is one of nine SFU faculty members who together will receive nearly 40 per cent of those funds, or more than $2.6 million in total.

The broad spectrum of projects ranges from the smart sensors to new ways to improve the safety, economics and sustainability of B.C.'s surface mines.

A complete list of other SFU researchers, each receiving approximately $300,000, follows.

The NRAS endowment is a $50-million fund established to finance B.C. research and development, advanced training, technology transfer and commercialization capacity in engineering, natural resources and the applied sciences.

Other SFU NRAS recipients:

William Davidson, molecular biologist, hopes to determine the molecular basis for sex- determination in Atlantic salmon by identifying the genes involved in the sex-determining pathway.

Gregory Mori, computing science, wants to improve pedestrian safety via automated data collection and safety analysis. Mori is developing novel computer vision algorithms to enable the automatic tracking of road users and improved analytical tools and measures for assessing road safety.

Mohamed Hefeeda, computing science, is developing high-quality mobile multimedia services through the creation of novel algorithms and systems that minimize the energy consumption of mobile devices, improve user-perceived quality and maximize the use of the wireless spectrum.

Doug Stead, in earth sciences, hopes to improve safety, economics and sustainability through implementation of geotechnical innovation in B.C. surface mines. To achieve this, Stead will assist the mines through the latest advances in rock-slope characterization, monitoring and numerical modelling techniques.

Alexandra Fedorova, computing science, is building better and faster video games with the help of parallelization, a form of computing in which many calculations are carried out simultaneously. Fedorova will develop tools and techniques for parallelizing video games, which will enable programmers to use familiar programming style, but let the underlying system efficiently parallelize the code across tens or hundreds of processors or GPU cores.

Jian Pei, computing science, is developing the next generation of search engines to transform data from online social networks like Facebook  into business opportunities. By building search engines for large-scale evolving social networks and complex graphs, Pei’s project tackles storing large evolving social networks, time-sensitive community search and multidimensional community analysis.

Bozena Kaminska, engineering science, is developing a new generation of energy-storage devices based on soft-film polymer material that will enable the low-cost, environmentally friendly powering of electronic devices. Kaminska’s approach combines commercially feasible nano-structures used to increase energy efficiency and new advanced manufacturing processes for high-volume fabrication.

Albert M. Leung, engineering science plans to develop wireless sensor networks for video surveillance. Leung’s research addresses the design issues of battery-operated wireless video surveillance systems from a complete system perspective, taking into account the generation, transmission, storage, retrieval and consumption of video information.


Farid Golnaraghi, 778.782.8054;
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.3210;

Story credit/SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations