Memsys: the future of self-powered devices

By Tessa van Breeden - Batteries and accumulators are everywhere, from laptops to your electric toothbrush and electric cars to industrial machine sensors. But, over time, all batteries need to be replaced. We expect to need increasingly more batteries, which will impact the environment negatively.

MEMSYS aims to reduce the replacement of batteries. They do so by developing energy harvesting technologies and their application in small devices that can power themselves. Their first product is a self-powered sensor for the railway sector that monitors the wagons.

From lab to the world

Thijs Blad founded MEMSYS as a spin-off of the TU Delft. Thijs Blad studied mechanical engineering and came across energy harvesting during his master’s thesis. He found a technology that harvests energy from vibrations using piezoelectric materials: solid materials that hold electric charge, resulting from pressure and latent heat. Using that energy is possible on a small scale, making generating energy within devices possible.

During his Ph.D., Thijs developed a mechanism and wanted to bring this to application in the world. He noticed many problems with the batteries of industrial sensors. Sometimes within specific industries, thousands of batteries must be replaced. That requires new batteries, which impacts the environment. In addition, the process of replacing many batteries at the same time can be complicated and expensive. All in all, a challenging job.

At one point during my Ph.D., I was working with 11 students on my energy harvesting project. I love working on an idea with many people and striving for the same goal together. It is one of the reasons I started MEMSYS: to be able to build something from scratch with a team.Thijs Blad, Founder and CEO of MEMSYS

Data collection on freight trains

In 2022, Thijs joined the Validation Lab of YES!Delft. Since 2023, MEMSYS has an office at the YES!Delft building. They also participated in the accelerator program. The program helped Thijs to find a product-market fit and to learn about the practicalities of building a business. 

Thijs found a problem with freight trains transporting goods during the Validation Lab. Those wagons have no electric power, so batteries would have to power the sensors. That leads to problems such as scheduling maintenance timely or wagons that are lost. Thijs believes that all these operational problems could be easily prevented if there was a way to collect data on the wagons. So, he asked Gerrit-Jan Mollink to join MEMSYS as COO because of his vast experience within the railway industry, and they embarked on a journey to help solve this problem.

At first, I only had created a technology. I was searching for ways to apply that technology to solve challenges. So, I conducted market research in several industries and found a problem that MEMSYS can help to fix. Thanks to YES!Delft, this was easier because they helped me during the Validation Lab.Thijs Blad, Founder and CEO of MEMSYS

Funding and next steps

The first sensors were recently installed on trains in Germany to collect data. Within three weeks, we could help our partner by identifying  weak spots in the track, and our partner could schedule maintenance accordingly . The company was pleased with that; it saved much time and research and prevented bigger problems. Placing the first sensors is made possible by an investment of UNIIQ earlier this year. Additionally, MEMSYS has received a grant from the NWO. 

The data will be used to make the prototype of the self-powered sensors. In the upcoming year, MEMSYS wants to set up a core team with expertise in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, data analysis, and software development. All in all, MEMSYS is developing the first sensor that will power itself via energy harvesting, aiding the railway freight transport industry to become more efficient. Ultimately, this first project will open up opportunities to diminish battery usage worldwide.

Your dream can become a reality too!

As long as you want to make a change, don’t miss the opportunity to boost your startup by joining the YES!Delft Validation Lab or Accelerator Program. However, if working for a startup resonates more with your ambition, we got you! Check out vacancies placed by our startups.

Be the change, as change starts with you.

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