Is the Energy in Energy Harvesting Really Free?

Of course. However, the conversion process to get useful electricity certainly is not. Also, several design considerations must be taken into account to ensure a system’s success. This includes thinking differently about power consumption.

With all of the wireless communications applications expanding in consumer, commercial and industrial applications, the power must be achieved without connecting wires to realize the full benefits of “wireless.” The first thought for wireless sensing nodes is powering them with batteries. Unlike smartphones that can easily be recharged overnight or periodically during the day, the accessibility of sensing nodes in industrial applications usually makes replacing discharged batteries the only viable option. This is where energy harvesting (EH) enters the design considerations as a less expensive than changing batteries alternative.

For outdoor wireless nodes, solar or even wind power can provide possible EH solutions. Indoors in factories, thermal, vibrational, radio frequency (RF), electromagnetic and other motion-based energy conversion techniques come into play. But there are other system considerations. One is alternate energy storage using supercapacitors and even a combination of rechargeable batteries and supercapacitors. Another major and more subtle consideration is energy-efficient software. Software approaches that work acceptably with online power can kill the life of battery-powered or energy harvesting powered systems.

When energy harvesting is applied properly, it can provide many years of maintenance-free service for wireless sensor nodes. Those looking to make the transition to wireless sensing or learn some new EH tricks, should attend the Energy Harvesting Symposium (Tuesday, June 25), Energy Harvesting sessions (June 26) and visit the EH Pavilion at Sensors Expo 2019 (June 26 & 27) in San Jose, CA. Energy Harvesting is just one of ten conference tracks and Sensors Expo has partnered with the Autonomous Vehicle Sensors Conference, Embedded Technologies Expo & Conference and the Medical Sensors Design Conference that will all be held concurrently in the McEnery Convention Center. So, there will be plenty to cover in just two or three days.

Originally posted on Sensor Tips.

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