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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


New Tech Tuesdays: Extending Battery Life with Energy Harvesting Technology Rudy Ramos

New Tech Tuesdays

Join Rudy Ramos for a weekly look at all things interesting, new, and noteworthy for design engineers.

Imagine having unlimited renewable energy. What a wonderful thought. Think of the possibilities; no more electric bills to pay, no more gasoline or natural gas bills. It would be like having a perpetual battery that could run forever.

While having unlimited renewable energy would be a game-changer for many industries and individuals, our current technology cannot yet make it a reality. However, several viable alternatives, including energy harvesting, may be suitable depending on the application.

The concept of energy harvesting is not new, but as technology advances and continues to drive the Internet of Things (IoT) into the Internet of Everything (IoE), energy harvesting is moving from the back burner to the front line.

Energy harvesting is the process of collecting and storing small amounts of renewable energy from various sources, such as solar, kinetic, thermal, or wind, that would otherwise go to waste. The harvested energy can then be used to power electronic devices or charge batteries.

How Does Energy Harvesting Work?

Different ways to harvest energy exist depending on the energy source, but the process generally includes three main steps:

  1. Energy collection: This involves capturing ambient energy from the environment using specialized devices such as solar panels, kinetic generators, or thermoelectric generators.
  2. Energy conversion: The collected energy is then converted into electrical energy using specialized devices such as power converters or voltage regulators.
  3. Energy storage: The converted electrical energy is then stored in batteries or other storage devices for later use.

One major benefit of energy harvesting is that devices can operate independently and with minimal maintenance, as they generate their own power. Targeted energy harvesting applications include self-sufficient devices and systems, especially in remote off-the-grid places, IoT devices, smart buildings, and electric vehicles.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Energy Harvesting

Energy harvesting has many benefits, such as collecting and using otherwise wasted energy from alternative sources, leading to increased efficiency. It can also be cost-effective in the long term by reducing ongoing energy purchases, maintenance, and battery replacement, resulting in environmental benefits. Furthermore, energy harvesting allows for energy generation at the point of use, increasing the resilience of the energy grid and reducing transmission losses. However, energy harvesting also has some limitations, primarily with the tiny amounts of energy typically collected that need to be stored and efficiently managed so that the targeted application can effectively use it. Additionally, energy harvesting capacities may vary depending on the environment and the specific energy source, such as solar and wind, which can be intermittent, making energy harvesting less reliable in certain situations.

In this week's New Tech Tuesday, we will delve into Low Illumination Solar Cells from TDK and the Light Energy Harvesting Evaluation Board from e-peas and how they can provide energy harvesting solutions from renewable sources.

Energy Harvesting Solutions

TDK BCS series of low illumination amorphous solar cells are thin, lightweight, flexible, and can be custom designed according to various shapes and applications. These BCS solar cells offer high power generation efficiency under fluorescent lamps and LED light sources with output stability in low and dim light conditions. These solar cells help reduce the cost of battery replacement and wiring while extending the life of the primary battery or the usage time of rechargeable devices. The clean-energy BCS series of solar cells from TDK is suitable as a power source for a whole host of indoor products like clocks, wearable devices, beacons, IoT wireless sensors, smart cards, and locks.

e-peas EVK10900 Evaluation Board is a development platform for the pre-mounted AEM10900 solar and light energy harvesting battery charger IC. The EVK10900 features all of the terminal connectors required and provisions for up to five resistors for design configuration use to allow for easy connections to the energy harvester, a single PV cell, and the storage battery. This compact and ultra-efficient battery charger allows designers to extend battery life and eliminates the primary energy storage in a wide range of wireless applications, such as wearable and medical applications and smart IoT sensors. The AEM10900 evaluation board is a plug-and-play, intuitive tool for designing highly efficient energy-harvesting battery charging applications.

Conclusion

Energy harvesting is fast becoming a viable and promising alternative to traditional energy sources, and this is why more research and development are needed to increase adoption and overcome the challenges. As the IoT morphs into the IoE, seamlessly connecting and coordinating immense numbers of computing elements, sensors, people, vehicles, processes, and data, the requirement for even the smallest amounts of energy collection will be needed.



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Rudy RamosRudy is a member of the Technical Content Marketing team at Mouser Electronics, bringing 35+ years of expertise in advanced electromechanical systems, robotics, pneumatics, vacuum systems, high voltage, semiconductor manufacturing, military hardware, and project management. As a technology subject matter expert, Rudy supports global marketing efforts through his extensive product knowledge and by creating and editing technical content for Mouser's website. Rudy has authored technical articles appearing in engineering websites and holds a BS in Technical Management and an MBA with a concentration in Project Management. Prior to Mouser, Rudy worked for National Semiconductor and Texas Instruments.


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