Energy harvesting is a term that now encompasses creating microwatts to megawatts of off-grid electricity using ambient energy such as heat, light, wind and waves. That means big business for those seeing the big picture. For example, magnetostrictive harvesting, a failure at MEMS level now pops up as one megawatt wave power virtually without moving parts.
There are interesting echoes of best practice at low power being mimicked at high power, potentially with greater commercial success. For example, wireless sensor networks are mesh networks, self-organising and self-healing but operating very slowly in many cases. The nodes may only pass data to each other when they come close and when power is available. An example would be nodes floating in the ocean that create electricity when on the surface and the sun is out, waking 'like a lizard'. Battery replacement is impractical so have no battery.
Day-time operational vehicles
That has echoes in new "lizard-like" vehicles. The NFH-H microbus from China uses "United Nations Global Blue Sky Award Winning NanoWin CIGS thin film solar modules". During daytime, the five 96W panels give driving speed of 5-12 km/h without needing batteries, says the company. Abandoning lead acid batteries typically used in such microbuses probably means they work over an eight or ten hour day, particularly since the copper indium gallium diselenide CIGS solar cells are very tolerant of low levels of light and lightweight. Pitched as an open tourist bus, it may well not be needed at night time.
Another use for a vehicle waking with the sun is the agricultural robot vehicle doing measurements across vineyards. The autonomous Vinerobot in Europe is a multi-nation program and similar to one at Queensland University of Technology in Australia. They will be Energy Independent Vehicles EIVs. Maybe they will dispense with batteries - greener, saving money, increasing reliability.
Conference and reports cover it all
The IDTechEx conference, 'Energy Harvesting & Storage' at IDTechEx Show! Santa Clara California covers energy harvesting from microwatts to megawatts so delegates can explore moving their skills to where the money is. Presentations will cover a range of energy harvesting technologies, covering a wide range of power outputs: from Alphabet Energy to WITT and Alta Devices, whether thermoelectric, motion or photovoltaic harvesting, depending on size and operational environments of the harvesters, output could indeed be from microwatts to megawatts.
The show grows every year, with well over 200 exhibitors and over 3000 delegates expected on Nov 18-19. IDTechEx market research reports, 'Energy Harvesting: Off-grid Renewable Power for Devices, Vehicles, Structures 2015-2025 and 'Energy Independent Vehicles 2016-2026' tell more and, for those wanting to read further into the specifics, there are reports on high power energy harvesting and on the energy independent vehicle technology roadmap. With the big picture, everyone wins.
Find out more at the IDTechEx Show! - Energy Harvesting & Storage USA, taking place on Nov 18-19 in Santa Clara. www.EnergyHarvestingUSA.com