One class of wireless sensor networks makes use of sensor nodes that recharge their batteries by harvesting energy from the surrounding environment. Being continuously recharged, the battery does not need to be replaced regularly and the sensor node is maintenance-free. A key module in such sensor network solutions is the data link automatic repeat request (ARQ) protocol, which must be designed to reliably deliver sensor nodes data at the minimum energy cost. With this objective in mind, two ARQ protocol classes are compared. In one class, each sensor node operates individually. In the other, the concept of cooperative communications is adopted, whereby neighboring sensor nodes help each other during the retransmission process. It is shown that the use of cooperative ARQ protocols in energy harvesting sensor networks enables sensor nodes to balance their energy consumption to match their own battery recharge rate. In turn, a balanced energy consumption-to-recharge rate ratio has the potential to improve the network throughput. Both classes of ARQ protocols are analyzed and compared. Estimated throughput gains are discussed under various network scenarios.
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