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Home » Applications & Technologies » Energy Harvesting Electronics
Applications & Technologies
Energy Harvesting Overview
Energy Harvesting Technologies

All processes that involve energy conversion are, to some degree, inefficient. Motors get hot, as do power transistors, automobile engines, and light bulbs; in each case energy is wasted as heat. Radio stations put out megawatts of RF but their signals reach antennas as microwatts. Energy harvesting devices capture some of this wasted energy, convert it to electricity, and put it to work.

The best known energy harvesting collectors are large solar panels and wind generators, which have become major alternative energy sources for the power grid. But small embedded devices must rely on energy scavenging systems that can capture milliwatts of energy from light, vibration, thermal, or biological sources. Thanks to ultra-low-power MCUs these micropower energy harvesters can greatly extend the life of batteries in consumer, industrial, and medical applications where battery replacement may be difficult, expensive, or even impossible. With careful design, energy harvesting devices can even replace batteries altogether in some applications.

Since the output from energy harvesting devices is usually small and intermittent, a system must be carefully designed that may include a boost converter, a charge controller for a rechargeable Li-Ion or thin-film battery, a regulator for the MCU and other loads, an MCU, sensors, and a wireless connectivity module. The closer an energy harvesting device can come to supplying the overall demands of an embedded system, the closer that system can come to being battery free.

» Read about New Applications for Energy Harvesting

Energy Harvesting
Energy Harvesting
Thermal Energy Harvesting Module from Nextreme

Not long ago, energy harvesting was of little concern to embedded developers, thanks to the advent of ultra-low-power MCUs. However battery technology could not keep pace with the shrinking geometries of portable devices, so energy harvesting started to get a serious second look. Wireless sensor networks, for one, could not exist without ultra-low-power MCUs supported in part by micropower energy harvesting devices.

The most widely used energy harvesting devices rely on solar, thermal, RF, and piezoelectric sources of energy.

Photovoltaic (PV) or solar cells convert light energy into electricity. Photovoltaic cells have the highest power density and highest power output of the various energy harvesting devices.

» View Solar Energy Harvesting Devices

» View Thermal Energy Harvesting Devices

» View RF Energry Harvesting Devices

» View Piezo Energy Harvesting Devices

Energy Harvesting Storage
Supercapacitor from Cornell Dubilier

The energy from micropower sources tends to be intermittent and, even when it is not, the output is generally so low that a boost regulator is required before the accumulated energy can be stored.

Small rechargeable Li-Ion batteries are popular in space-limited portable applications. The Texas Instruments bq24210 Li-Ion Battery Solar Charger incorporates an input voltage regulation loop with a programmable input voltage regulation threshold, making it suitable for charging from alternative power sources such as a solar panel or an inductive charging pad. TI’s bq25505 is an ultra-low-power boost converter with battery management for energy harvesting applications.

For micropower devices, thin-film batteries are an attractive storage option. The Cymbet CBC3150 EnerChip integrates a 3.3V/50 µA thin-film battery with a charge pump, power manager, and temperature-compensated charge control. The Cymbet CBC-EVAL-10 Energy Harvesting Evaluation Kit includes a small solar panel.

» View Storage Devices for Energy Harvesting

» View Battery Management Devices for Energy Harvesting

Development Tools
Development tool example
Thermal Energy Harvesting Development Tool from Nextreme

Energy harvesting represents a spectrum of rapidly evolving technologies. As design complexity increases and design cycles continue to shrink, development tools are often all but essential. In the area of energy harvesting, development kits and boards provide designers the means to evaluate and become familiar with the latest energy harvesting technologies and products.

The often iterative process of design must include development and testing beyond mere circuit simulation. Engineers frequently find themselves resorting to the seemingly inevitable Breadboard. Development kits offer a rapid method of getting to the heart of development with little set-up time.

In addition to accelerated time-to market, development kits can further provide the benefits of directly applicable, pre-tested circuits, readily available printed circuit board (PCB) layouts, and a common platform from which to create and debug customized designs.

» View Energy Harvesting Development Tools & Kits

Learn more about the TI bq25504 Ultra Low Power Boost Converters
TI bq25504 Ultra-Low
Power Boost Converters
  • DC/DC with battery management
  • Continuous harvesting from low input sources
  • Compatible with Li-ion, thin-film, and super-caps
Learn more about the TI bq25504 Ultra Low Power Boost Converters
Learn more about Murata DMT Electrical Double Layer Capacitors
Murata DMT Electrical
Double Layer Capacitors
  • Small and slim - suitable for portable devices
  • High energy - flexible discharge 500µAh – 2As
  • Temp range - DMT series: -30°C to 85°C
Learn more about Murata Electrical Double Layer Capacitors
Learn more about Wurth Electronics Energy Harvesting Solution Kits
Wurth Electronics Energy
Harvesting Solution Kits
  • 4 harvesters for different source types
  • JTAG and AS mode configuration supported
  • On-board solar cell and thermo electric generator
Learn more about Wurth Electronics Energy Harvesting Solution Kits
Learn more about Maxim MAX17710 Power Management ICs
Maxim MAX17710
Power Management ICs
  • Output: 1mW to 100mW Lithium-ion
  • High-temperature applications
  • 1.8V, 2.3V, or 3.3V LDO
Learn more about Maxim MAX17710 Power Management ICs
Learn more about STMicroelectronics EFL700A39 Rechargeable Solid State Lithium Battery
STMicroelectronics CC EFL700A39
Rechargeable Solid State Lithium Battery
  • All solid-state
  • Low capacity loss
  • Long cycle life
Learn more about STMicroelectronics EFL700A39 Rechargeable Solid State Lithium Battery
Learn more about Midé Volture™ Piezoelectric Harvesters
Midé Volture
Piezoelectric Harvesters
  • Enables vibration energy harvesting
  • Hermetically sealed for use in harsh environments
  • Directly integrates with COTS type products
Learn more about Midé Volture™ Piezoelectric Harvesters
More Featured Products
JAE Electronics - DW Series Power ConnectorsLearn More
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Circuit Protection
Carling Technologies A-Series Circuit BreakersLearn More
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