Sunday, September 27, 2020
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Tech Professor Studies Soil Energy

One of Tennessee Tech’s professors and alumni has begun research that could help farmers.

Center for Energy Systems Research Assistant Professor Dr. Charles Van Neste said he’s researching how to wirelessly transmit power through the soil.

“The main concept behind, the main goal, is to power sensors, agricultural sensors, that are placed throughout the field and alleviate the need for replacing batteries,” Van Neste said.

The energy utilized will detect and monitor the soil, potentially giving farmers an idea how much to plant and where to fertilize. Van Neste said it will reduce waste, improve crop yield, reduce environmental contamination, and generate greater economic income for farmers.

The energy going through the soil is low power, and is safe for livestock, crops, and people. Van Neste added through their research, they have kept safety a top priority.

He tried researching soils in Canada and south of Tennessee, but they were not conductive for research.

“Tech is one of the few places in the Southeast where they’re agricultural centric and its a smaller university and it’s much more flexible and conducive to doing this kind (of research). Everyone here has been really, really helpful. It’s just really easy to get this kind of work done here,” Van Neste said.

This research is an inspiration from Nikola Tesla’s work, Van Neste added. Tesla began this research in the 1800’s.

Currently Van Neste and his research team are in a transition phase to develop better equipment to achieve optimal transmission.

“Where we’re at right now is just trying to scale up the system that we’ve got,” Van Neste said. “The maximum that we’ve been able to inject has given us the ability to measure about 800 feet and we had voltage levels capable of powering little sensors at about 100 to 150 feet in a radius around the transmitter.”

He received a $175,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.