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Posted on November 22, 2011 by  & 

Energy Harvesting USA keynote presentations part one

This article, published in two parts, gives an overview of the Keynote presentations at Energy Harvesting USA 2011 conference held in Boston, MA last week. Leading innovators and adopters of energy harvesting and wireless sensor technologies discussed solutions, challenges and needs that will promote further adoption of energy harvesting in different verticals.

Ford - VOLVO

After Raghu Das opened the conference with an overview of the state of the energy harvesting market in 2011 and its forecasted growth, Clay Maranville from the FORD Motor Company provided attendees with a range of considerations that guided FORD through the development of thermoelectric generators for their vehicles, looking at waste heat recovery as part of the company's strategy on sustainable transportation.
Energy efficient transportation is becoming more and more imperative, both due to the increasing number of vehicles (car ownership in china is expected to reach 230M by 2030) as well as the increasing price of fossil fuels, making the development of ways to decrease wasted energy a necessity, both from an economic as well as an environmental standpoint.
Reducing total fuel consumption, weight and cost compared to an alternator/battery system would be the ideal way to implement thermoelectric energy generation. Replacing the alternator completely is a very challenging approach though so, at this point, supplementing it is a much more viable option. Recovering waste heat without interfering with the rest of the systems on the vehicle was a central development consideration and results on a vehicle demonstrated the recovery of around 275W at cruising speed.
Clay also briefly touched on wireless vehicle sensors, with considerations including the potential elimination of 1500 different types of wires, (over 4km in length, 40kg in weight) with reduced cost, weight and improved long term durability wireless solutions.
Michael Balthasar from the Volvo Group continued in a similar vein, focusing more on commercial vehicles rather than passenger cars, where fuel efficiency is also a top priority. The thermodynamic Rankine cycle approach is currently preferred due to higher efficiencies but thermoelectric generation is also important, where considerations at Volvo include lower cost, higher efficiency, and use of non-toxic materials. Such developments would make thermoelectric generation a preferred option.
Cost considerations are also important in the wireless sensors space, making sure that product, manufacturing as well as development & maintenance costs are reduced. Signal interference and cross communication have to be avoided at all costs and equally importantly, security of wireless communications is a high priority, making sure it is implemented with minimal energy consumption.

The Marketing Store

On a totally different sector, Warren Kronberger from The Marketing Store discussed the interest in the energy harvesting space from the perspective of a marketing company. Promotional toys incorporating electronics and interior design furniture are some of the types of products available from The Marketing Store that would benefit from energy harvesting technologies. Some of the bespoke toys incorporate proximity and sound sensors, currently utilizing batteries but energy harvesting could potentially lead to an enhanced role playing experience. Some interactive electronic toys (first introduced in 2003) are at times deployed in very large volumes of over 30,000,000 units in the space of a month and so, the overall opportunity in terms of harvesters necessary could be significant. For adults, harvesting ambient energy would make sense in retail applications, in order to power products incorporating interactive elements in their packaging, POP and window displays and signage or even incorporated into components of the final product. Warren also commented that safety concerns are quite relevant in this space, due to the close proximity and increased interaction of the consumer with these types of products (e.g. avoiding lead and other toxic materials, the disposal of electronic waste).

Philips Research

Dr Kars Michiel Lenssen from Philips Research Laboratories discussed electronic skin development, in collaboration with HP, and its power requirements in autonomous devices. Electronic skin describes the change of the appearance of surfaces electronically and remotely, with large size examples including smart windows and electronic wall paper(managing lighting, privacy, temperature, etc). In principle this application sounds very interesting but consumers become less enthusiastic when being faced with the potential of many more wires/cables and increased electricity bills. Hence, energy harvesting and wireless solutions are the main type of approach that would make sense in this space. Electrophoretic displays are one approach, being able to easily control transmission rates from 0 to 70% with 5 levels of grayscale in between with low power consumption (zero power consumed to maintain dark state, nanoWatts to maintain transparent state, milliWatts during changing states). The size of implementation ranges from portable electronics personalization all the way to potentially changing the colour of one's entire home depending on weather conditions and whether one would desire to keep a building warmer or cooler.
Dr Lenssen also announced for the first time HP's development of a different technology, based on electrokinetics. The electrokinetic panels are manufactured on a roll to roll process and can also operate with very little power provided, whether by indoor PV or RF power.

Authored By:

Principal Analyst

Posted on: November 22, 2011

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