The second day of the hugely successful IDTechEx conferences in Denver started with a focus on photovoltaics, which has the biggest market share in energy harvesting technology today. After a brief overview of thin film photovoltaic technologies and solar cell applications for small devices by IDTechEx analyst Dr Harry Zervos, Dr Michael Woodhouse of the NREL gave a presentation focusing on achieving grid parity and on the timescales for it, especially when going through times of low cost for silicon (current price of p-silicon at $55/kg, while its price before the economic downturn stood at $200/kg). Dr Woodhouse also presented on the advantages of organic solar cells for small applications, focusing on the great amount of progress still to be made with these cells which are currently underperforming when compared with inorganic technologies.
Sylvia Tulloch of Dyesol presented on the company's dye-sensitized solar cells, which have achieved record efficiencies of 12.3%. Miss Tulloch also introduced Dyesol's CEGS technology: Combining Electricity Generation and Storage. This is a promising way of integrating a dye solar cell with a supercapacitor which could be a potential spin-out from Dyesol.
The presentation from Powercast focused on applications of RF harvesting varying from irrigating sensors, location awareness and remote activation all the way to sub-floor moisture monitoring. These can be embedded in walls and other locations and powered as needed to provide sensing data. No motion, light, heat or other energy sources are needed.
Professors Zane and Popovic from the University of Colorado gave a very interesting overview of their groups' activities on RF powering, with examples such as tomographic piezo transducers, harvesting cell phone base-station power or health monitoring for patients in assisted living. The event hosted a tour to their facilities. Microstrain focused on aircraft structure monitoring while ASTRI presented on their tyre pressure monitoring system. Baterry-less TPMS could eventually enable a USpound; Billion market by 2011.
In the field of energy Storage, CYMBET presented on the company's "green" thin battery with a solid state electrolyte, a battery with high cycle life, low self discharge, integration capability and enabling the manufacture of small devices. Dr Steingard from City College New York also highlighted that primary batteries are still a reliable component for some applications although he did describe the concepts of integration of printed power with printed thin film transistors which have been demonstrated to currently have lifetimes of about 3 months. Tellurex Corporation and Thermo Life gave descriptions of their advances in thermal harvesting technologies and different material systems for applications at different temperature ranges.
Ireland based Decawave reported that their new sensor and chip module will be launched early next year. This is based on the ratified standard 802.15.4.a. They claim this is ideal for wireless sensor networks in terms of low power requirements and data rates. It can also be used for real time locating systems (RTLS) providing high precision. In open areas, they have demonstrated 500 meter line of sight read ranges. For RTLS applications, they have achieved 24 cm location accuracy and will shortly be able to achieve 10cm location accuracy.
The next events will be:
Energy Harvesting & Storage Europe WSN & RTLS Europe: Munich. Germany, Q2 2010
Energy Harvesting & Storage USA WSN & RTLS USA: Boston, USA, November 2010
For more information on the Energy Harvesting & Storage/WSN & RTLS series of events, please contact Sarah Lee at email@example.com
Top image of Denver source: DeadDogCafe