Energy harvesting is emission-free creation of electricity generation off-grid using ambient energy such as sun, wind, vibration or heat differences. Nowadays it has uses from microwatts to megawatts and benefits may go as far as "fit-and-forget", enabling energy independent vehicles by land water and air. This is all revealed at IDTechEx Show! Berlin May 10-11. For example, its nine parallel conferences include Energy Harvesting Europe where harvesting of energy up to the watt level for the Internet of Things and lighting is one focus this year.
Energy harvesting has been simmering under for some time now, with analyst expectations having been a bit too optimistic so far. Although technology developers have identified multiple applications in many operational environments and interest from potential adopters has been stimulated by the prospect of "unending wireless power", a mismatch between performance requirements has led to reduced adoption. Is 2017 going to be a year of finally switching speeds?
Ubiquitous connectivity and the IoT
Hints of positive changes in the market conditions are already starting to show: 2017 is the year when big companies are pushing ahead with implementing plans of ubiquitous connectivity, bringing additional electronic functionalities everywhere around us. With that, the ever increasing need for power becomes more important, leading to innovative thinking on how to power all these new devices, making them part of an IoT-infused way of looking at a world that's becoming smarter.
Products developed, innovation harnessed
Technology companies are moving ahead with introducing new products into the market, or, as is the case with EnOcean, also rebranding existing offerings, in order to take advantage of more fertile conditions. The Dolphin range of products, launched in late 2016, aims to clear up any misunderstanding on whether EnOcean's products only communicate through EnOcean's protocol: in fact, together with an efficient energy management system, the energy harvesting technology allows for communication based on a variety of wireless standards, such as EnOcean, ZigBee and BLE.
Other companies are taking advantage of measurement technology innovation to reduce power requirements for their products, hence making them suitable for being powered by even microwatts of ambient energy harvested. Such is the case of Drayson, whose CO wireless sensor product is powered by the FreeVolt energy harvester that utilizes radio frequency energy for trickle charging. The CO measurement within the sensor itself requires lower power than before: Historically metal oxide and electrochemical sensors required operating temperatures of 300-500ºC to facilitate reactions between a target gas and the sensor surface, a high temperature that led to power requirements as high as ~100-400 mW. New microstructured materials have enabled chemical gas sensors to operate at room temperature and therefore power requirements have been significantly reduced (10-50 µW).
The company's plans seem to be resonating with investors as well as customers; with the CleanSpace IoT sensor already selling well and a GBP8 Million injection of capital in May 2016, Drayson Technologies are delivering on their promise to create intelligent IoT networks, and they're doing it with minimal energy expenditure.
Another shift being discerned is in seeing end-users becoming developers: this is the case with Altro, a flooring company in the UK that's looking to use energy harvesting innovations to generate energy with its product offerings. Breaking away from the traditional approach in the flooring industry, Altro Ltd. is developing a flooring covering that can harvest energy from steps. A new, thin design has been created in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire. Based on piezoelectric technology, it targets the emergency and safety lighting market.
To hear from innovators like Altro and EnOcean and to understand why IDTechEx is forecasting a speedier adoption trend starting to take shape, attend this year's Europe installment of the Energy Harvesting Conference at the IDTechEx Show!, being held in Berlin, Germany on the 10 - 11, May 2017. For more information and details on confirmed exhibitors, speakers, and collocated events, visit www.IDTechExShow.com.