11 October 2012 - Ambient Energy Harvesters (AEHs) are unleashing the potential to harvest energy from the environment and may hold the potential to replace batteries in the future if technology can keep up, according to technology expert GBI Research.
Energy harvesting can provide an emissions-free renewable power supply, harnessing solar, wind and thermal power to produce green energy.Ambient energy harvesting is primarily used when the installation and maintenance of application systems is problematic, due to the potential cost or practical difficulty of providing power or communication through the use of cables. Energy harvesting can be used almost anywhere, as, unlike batteries, no space is required, and there are no accessibility issues related to maintenance.
Demand for energy harvesters is expected to grow with the development of low-power electronics, motivated by the increasing need for various applications to run efficiently, independently and remotely.A number of low power microcontrollers, digital signal processors, RF transceivers and sensors have already been developed, such as Texas Instruments' MSP430 microcontroller and Analog Devices Inc.’s ADXL345 ultra-low-power Micro Electro Mechanical System (MEMS) sensor.
However, further technological development is required to facilitate an efficient means of energy storage. Currently, energy can be stored either by using batteries or ultracapacitors. Due to their efficiency and superior lifetime, capacitors are increasingly preferred over batteries, but concerns about leakages limit their use over long periods. While a combination of batteries and capacitors can provide a safe and efficient harvesting system, the industry still lacks an innovative way to store harvested energy over prolonged lengths of time.
Hybrid energy harvesters represent the next progression in the green energy industry. While energy produced by AEHs is limited, hybrid energy harvesters use multiple sources, such as light, heat and vibrations, to increase the energy generating potential. Demand for these can be expected to increase in the near future, but technology will still need to catch up. Until then, the AEHs market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.1% during 2012 to 2016.