As each day goes by, yet another mobile and (increasingly) wireless device hits the market. Anything from mobile phones to remote data collection devices (e.g. Zigbee endpoints)
This is all well and good, but powering these suckers and keeping them powered for anything up to 15 years or so is causing real head scratching in the embedded world. So what’s the solution?
Well, with new generation microcontroller devices capable of running of the juice of a lemon or even grapes!, the search is on for new ways to harvest energy.
Energy harvesting commonly refers to gaining energy that would otherwise be wasted.
Piezoelectric harvesting for instance takes advantage of vibrations to excite a mechanical structure at its resonant frequency. This mechanical structure is then attached to a piezoelectric substrate, which will generate electricity, albeit at a very low level.
IMEC is one company that has taken advantage of this and have succesfully developed a generator that can produce 40-60uW of power. Not huge but enough to power the latest low power micro controllers such as those from TI. Couple this to something like a Supercapacitor and you have a lifetime supply for your device!.