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Posted on October 10, 2012 by  & 

Can printed electronics make energy harvesting ubiquitous?

Printed electronics is an enabling technology that helps make energy harvesting (EH) solutions ubiquitous. It will achieve this by offering an exciting toolkit for designing elegant networked EH solutions compatible with diverse operating environments. This toolkit will encompass every element of printed electronics, including conductors, RFID tags, batteries, sensors, logic and memory, solar cells, etc. Attend Energy Harvesting & Storage and Wireless Sensor Networks USA 2012, in Washington, DC on 7-8 November to learn the latest developments in this field, do business with every stage of this fast emerging value chain, and enter new market segments. , Agenda , Attendee Registration

Tapping into energy harvesting diversifies your target markets

EH refers to a system of devices that are capable of scavenging, storing and transmitting energy sources that would otherwise have simply been lost. These systems are designed to recycle lost ambient/background energies stemming from solar irradiation, temperature gradients, mechanical vibration, etc.
Of course, EH solutions can make a system more energy efficient, but their overall impact here will remain curtailed by the limited power output per device (often in the micro watt range). Their major value is in enabling self-powered networks of electronic devices and sensors, and in expanding the reach of electronic functionality to areas previously not possible.
EH solutions can deliver value in a diverse range of markets. These include the healthcare industry in which they can enable embedded distributed health monitoring systems; the building and infrastructure industry in which they can enable the real-time health and integrity monitoring of structures; the consumer electronics industry in which they enable extra portability by helping mobile devices self-power amongst many others.
The value of networks scales with the numbers of nodes, emphasizing high production throughput and low cost. The power output of some classes of energy harvesters scale with area, emphasizing large-area electronics. The utility of EH solutions is often in adopting to curved or irregularly shaped substrates emphasizing form factor. Printed electronics is an enabling technology that helps realise all these attributes.

Printed electronics offer an exciting toolkit for elegant network solutions

Printed electronics already offer an exciting toolkit for implementing EH solutions. This toolkit covers all essential elements of an EH system. Indeed, a diverse array of harvesters can be printed: organic photovoltaics and dye-sensitized solar cells can be printed to utilise solar energy, particularly from indoor lighting sources; printed piezoelectric scavengers can be used to harness vibrational energy; printed thermoelectric devices can exploit temperature gradients, for example.
Flexible and thin batteries can also be printed and store the scavenged energy. This functionality is particularly useful in cases where the energy source is cyclical, experiencing intense peaks followed by prolonged low levels of activity. Printed electronics can also enable networking between individual energy harvesters (or functional nodes in the system powered by energy harvesters). This is because RFID antennas and chips (logic and memory) can also be printed, roll-to-roll. Even flexible sensors can be printed, over large or small areas, allowing the EH systems to monitor temperature, strain, heart beat rate, vibration, light flux, etc.
Printed electronics allow EH solutions to be directly integrated onto the end products, regardless of their shape or fragility. This is because devices can be deposited using non-contact inkjet-printing. Printing even makes the end solution more elegant by simplifying the wiring. This is because all manners of conductors can now be printed, satisfying different conductivity, cost or thermal budget requirements. Indeed, additive printing process will be a major driver because they enable the manufacture of flexible, thin, large-area devices at low cost and high throughput.
For more information: Energy Harvesting & Storage and Wireless Sensor Networks USA 2012, November 7-8 in Washington, DC.

Authored By:

Research Director

Posted on: October 10, 2012

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