Thursday, February 23, 2012

patentECO - Water on the Move

Power From Flowing Water

The American Water Works Association reports that water systems are evaluating applying smart grid technology to the treatment, distribution, and monitoring of drinking water. Recent patents support this development.

Patent number 7,605,485, “Systems and methods for generating power through the flow of water,” was issued October 20, 2009 to Barth Robins Pitchford (Fairfax, VA), William Dudley Pitchford (Fairfax, VA), Robert Paul Simon (Fairfax, VA), C. David Binning (Warrenton, VA), and David Lewis Rasmussen (Vienna, VA) and was assigned to the Fairfax County (Virginia) Water Authority. The patent is classified as 290/43 for prime-mover dynamo plants, and specifically fluid current motors. As of January 5, 2012, this subclass contains 524 patents related to hydroelectric, wave, and wind power generation, among others.

The FCWA is Virginia’s largest water utility, serving one out of every five Virginians who obtain their water from public utilities. Nearly 1.7 million people in the Northern Virginia communities of Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Alexandria obtain their drinking water from FCWA.

Claim 1 states:

“A power generator system comprising:

a rotating device adapted to rotate in response to a flow of water on the rotating device;

a drive magnet operatively coupled to the rotating device and adapted to rotate in response to the rotating device rotating;

a registration magnet operatively coupled to the drive magnet and adapted to rotate in response to the drive magnet rotating;

a power generator operatively coupled to the registration magnet and adapted to harvest and store energy in response to the registration magnet rotating;

a rectifier operatively coupled to an output of the power generator and adapted to convert the energy from an alternating current (AC) to a direct current (DC);

a first power storage device adapted to be charged by an output of the rectifier and a second power storage device adapted to be charged by an output of the first power storage device;

and a processor configured to monitor voltages levels of the first power storage device and second power storage device and cause a transfer of energy from the first power storage device to the second power storage device in the event that the voltage level of the first storage device is above a first threshold and the voltage level of the second storage device is below a second threshold.”

This invention generates and harvests energy in response to the flow of water through rotating device, such as a nutating or oscillating disk. Mechanical energy from flow of water is converted into electrical energy via an energy conversion unit. The power generation system may be used to power electronic and mechanical devices used in automated meter reading (AMR) systems. The power generator system may recharge a storage circuit that enables long term AMR operations without the need for battery replacement. The power generation system, in various embodiments, can provide additional power for two-way communication and other sensors such as pressure, temperature, water quality and services such as remote shut-off, event-based messaging, and water quality monitoring.

These inventors and assignee also were granted patent number 7,671,480, “Systems and methods for remote utility metering and meter monitoring,” issued March 2, 2010. This patent is also classified as 290/43. The patent is a divisional of the application that led to the ‘485 patent. A divisional patent application occurs when a patent examiner determines that a patent application describes more than one invention (a patent can only describe one invention). The original patent application is "divided" into a new application referred to as a divisional patent application.

These types of inventions are a component of the emerging smart water grid. They also illustrate linkages between patentECO indexes, in this case, Energy and Water.