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What is Energy Harvesting About?

We are in a world where a lot of exciting innovations are being made. The Internet of Things (IoT) has brought about a connected world of information exchange. IoT has contributed to a lot of development in the world as a whole. However, the IoT experienced some drawbacks. One of the major drawbacks was the massive economic nightmare posed by batteries.

The installment, replacement, and maintenance of batteries is not a lasting solution. Batteries won’t be able to power several sensors that will be used in the future. Therefore, scientists and engineers have come up with an everlasting solution. This solution is energy harvesting. Also, energy harvesting offers a long-lasting solution to this energy problem.  Read more to have a detailed knowledge about what energy harvesting is all about and how it works.

Humanity has been able to achieve a great feat as regards technology and civilization. All of these achievements can be fundamentally attributed to the ability to produce energy and deploy energy. We utilize nearly 607 quintillion joules of energy every year across the globe. The rapid population growth is contributing to energy consumption and needs.

According to estimates, energy expenditure across the globe will be about 777 quintillion joules. These figures are huge. This is one of the reasons energy shortage issues is usually featured in global policymaking.  Also, there is a global panic about the environmental impact of depleting fossil fuel reserves. In spite of concerns about decreasing fossil fuel reserves, it is evident that meeting our energy demands will be a mammoth challenge.

However, innovation has continued to bring hope for humanity. This hope is simply based on the fact that innovation can provide a solution to energy shortage.

What is Energy Harvesting?

human energy harvesting

Energy harvesting, which is also called ambient power or energy scavenging has to do with the process involved in capturing energy and converting it from its surroundings into electricity. This energy could be used at once or kept for use in the future.

Energy harvesting functions through the harnessing of small quantities of ambient energy that is wasted or dissipated in form of light, vibration, heat, etc. As a technology, energy harvesting is in its nascent stage. This in no way is an answer to all the woes related to our energy today. However, it holds a great promise regarding the powering of low power electronics.  Furthermore, with the quick expansion of the IoT market, this means a huge potential for the technology.

Therefore, in RayMing’s application that run from any battery type means that you add a boost or step-down circuit with that regulator’ added cost. Also, one might have chosen one of the few microcontrollers, which can run from a single cell or lithium cell alkaline battery. Whichever way, a huge premium is included to your bill of materials as a result of the extra components or from the sourcing of the premium priced microcontroller.

What does Ambient Energy mean?

At any specific time, you can find energy all over us, which will go to waste. For example, as a result of the predominance of mobile devices and electronics, we are bathed constantly in oceans of WiFi signals and radio waves. Usually, our surroundings are clouded with usable energy, which could help in powering our electronics when stored and harnessed.

At times, a new app, which is launched by Richard Vijgen (Dutch designer), referred to as Architecture of Radio, helps in visualizing the invisible and massive energy field around us, all the time.

Also, these signals only represent an ambient energy form. Also, ambient energy could be energy coming in form of vibration or sound, heat, or light. For example, majority of power stations globally employs turbines that convert heat into mechanical energy. This is now converted into electricity.

Furthermore, this process is an inefficient one, with more than two-thirds of its energy input lost to our surrounding as heat. Also, just one third of the converted input serves as usable electricity. Potentially, you can harvest energy from all these sources. Although for now, not all are feasible technologically.

The Technology Behind Energy Harvesting

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The technologies of energy harvesting come in different types. This is based on the energy source. Moreover, all systems for energy harvesting, in the simplest form, is made up of three major components, coupled with the energy source.

Harvester/Transducer: The harvester or transducer is a part of the energy harvesting system, which helps in the conversion of ambient energy from its source to electrical energy.

Load: This forms a part of the energy harvesting system that could include either electronic devices, which consume any harvested energy like sensors, actuators, circuits, chips, etc, or the energy storage components like super capacitors, capacitors, etc.

Interface Circuit: As for the interface circuit, it helps in extracting the highest possible energy from its transducer and then ensures that the energy is useful through conditioning it in a great form for desired applications. This is through voltage regulation, voltage rectification, etc.

Types of Energy Harvesting

There are various sources of ambient energy which include:

  • Kinetic energy
  • RF energy
  • Light energy
  • Thermal energy

Solar energy harvest

Photovoltaic cells are commonly used to harvest solar energy. These cells transform light energy into electricity with the help of “photovoltaic effect.” Also, the photovoltaic effect is a principle that involves a process in which photons transform electrons into a greater energy state and as such causing the generation of electric current. PV cells are in four different categories which are:

  • Emerging PV technologies
  • Thin-film cells
  • Single and multi-junction cells
  • Emerging PV technologies

Since PV cells are quite expensive, one can use photodiodes to harness energy and supply energy for low-power devices like IoT edge-devices. Also, LEDs are less expensive compared to photodiodes. However, photodiodes are better as they provide more energy. Therefore, photodiodes is an ideal optio for harnessing and providing energy.

Kinetic energy harvest

Piezoelectric transducers are commonly used in harvesting kinetic energy. Also, Piezoelectric transducers generate electricity from kinetic energy using movements or sounds. The transducer transforms the kinetic energy to an AC current. The AC current is the stored in a super-capacitor or a thin-film battery.

Below are examples of Piezoelectric harvesting:

Batteryless remote control units

In this remote control unit, piezoelectric transducers transform the force of the buttons pressed in the energy that provides power to the IR signal of the remote.

Pressure sensors on car tires

The inside of car tires features piezoelectric energy-harvesting sensors. Also, these sensors regulate the air pressure in the tires and transmit the information to the dashboard.

Piezoelectric floor tiles

Some pavements feature piezoelectric floor tiles. These floor tiles transform the kinetic energy from pedestrians’ steps into electrical energy. Also, this electrical energy is further used to power applications such as ticketing systems and displays.

Thermal energy harvest

The majority of electrical systems produce heat. Therefore, this accounts for the proportion of dissipated energy. The harvesting of thermoelectric energy is simply based on the Seebeck Effect principle. This principle describes a situation where a difference in temperature between two conductors junction results in increasing voltage.

Also, a thermoelectric harvesting system comprises a thermoelectric generator. This generator comprises various thermocouples linked in series to a heat source. Also, this heat source could be solar panel or engine. The amount of generated energy is proportional to the variation in temperature and also the TEG size.

Furthermore, thermoelectric harvesting helps to power wireless sensor nodes in high-temperature environments and industrial settings. It is ideal for use where there is a huge loss of heat.

RF energy harvest

RF is almost everywhere around us. Also, RF waves are usually broadcasted in the environment through mobile phones and other telecommunication devices. Some electronic devices also transmit RF waves in our environment.

The technology behind RF harvesting holds a large amount of promise. The reason behind this huge appeal is simple. RF waves is just like a “free energy” that is yet to be tapped into. According to a research, the number of mobile phones subscription was estimated to have exceeded 5 billion.

We can estimate how much energy around us when we add the number of subscription of other devices like microwave ovens, Wifi routers, and laptops among others.  This energy is in the form of RF waves. The most reliable RF harvesting technology we have today is Wireless Energy Harvesting (WEH). Also, this harvesting technology is reliable due to its ease of use and simplicity. Radiofrequency waves pick up via an antenna which causes a possible difference across its length.

Therefore, this possible difference makes charge carriers to move along the antenna’s length. With the RF-DC integrated circuits, energy can now be converted from the movement into a DC current that is stable. This is then stored in a capacitor. It could be also used to power sensors.

RF harvesting has a wide range of applications. Also, you can use RF energy in low-power devices like wearable battery-free medical sensors. Furthermore, RF energy can help to wirelessly charge simple consumer electronics. At a wider range, there are other application areas of RF harvesting which include industrial control, automation building, and structural monitoring.

What are the Challenges of Energy Harvesting?

As energy harvesting becomes more popular, there is also an increase in the challenges they have to overcome. Usually, the power got from this energy harvesting is unstable and weak. Furthermore, the device’s power can also stop completely. This is why there is a need to consider measures against unexpected shutdowns.

Furthermore, if manufacturing and installing the devices used comes expensive, then the capacity of the energy harvesting has to be large so as to cover up for the cost. To achieve widespread application of this energy harvesting, then there is a need for low cost, high output, and high-efficiency harvesting equipment. Power consumption reduction of these devices will be important as well.

Furthermore, energy harvesting serves as a very important technology for the creation of networks for M2M and IoT devices. In order to realize future smart factories, smart homes, and smart cities that requires different data, then the development of advanced technologies for energy harvesting will continue.

Reasons why Energy Harvesting is Important

The Internet of Things (IoT) market can explode in a huge way. In a few years, the IoT sensors will have to number in high billions. Furthermore, the main aim of the Industrial Internet of Things is to automate the processes that ensure their efficiency.

Moreover, if the powering of billions of edge-devices and sensors which have to be deployed is done with batteries, then this could cause some other problems. You can deploy these sensors in areas that are difficult to reach.

This is one reason it could be a very difficult and stressful task when replacing its batteries. Furthermore, the replacement of the batteries indicates a cost in the long-term, which will be perceived as a massive pain and absolutely limiting by the adopters.

Furthermore, energy harvesting seeks to find answers to this bottleneck, most especially in very remote place, and areas lacking a power source close by. Also, it helps in negating the need to have man power based management. In addition, it promises more environmental sustainability and helps in reducing the carbon footprint.

What RayMing Offers You

Rayming offers a great solution for all IoT devices through the elimination of needing batteries. When there are no batteries, then there will be smaller designs, reduced BOM cost, and no maintenance. This is what Rayming PCB & Assembly has been able to achieve.

Furthermore, Rayming also offers PCB manufacturing, which is useful and applicable in different industries.

Conclusion

IoT (Internet of Things) is altering our daily lives’ landscape dramatically. In addition, these IoT devices are beginning to change our lives in so many ways. It may be the way we workout, shop, or drive, these IoT devices have successfully impacted our lives in different ways.

The Energy harvesting technologies have shown a great promise for the powering of this IoT explosion. Furthermore, with the deployment of more IoT devices in extremely hard-to-reach and remote locations, these batteries do not represent a solution that is very efficient for the powering of edge devices. However, making use of batteries isn’t too ecologically sustainable. Some technologies such as RF harvesting create new doors or opportunities for our quest to achieve the powering or our sensors and MCUs.