Energy harvesting is the process used in collecting energy from the environment and converting it to electricity. Previously, energy could only be derived by combining separate devices, which is costly, according to the Japan-based research Fujitsu subsidiary. The new device makes it possible to capture energy from either heat or light without the need to combine them. Heat and light "are the most typical forms of ambient energy available for wide-scope application," the labs said.
Currently, power plants and batteries supply electricity, a process that requires electrical wiring and replacement batteries. In recent years, the labs said, several methods have been developed to use ambient energy from different sources such as light, vibration, heat, and radio waves. But the amount of power that can be generated from such sources is "minute compared to what is available from power plants or batteries,'' the labs said.
Devices are needed that generate more power to operate information and communications technology (ICT) equipment through energy harvesting, the labs said. Energy harvesting technology also eliminates the need for replacement batteries and power cords, it said.
Because the hybrid device is manufactured from organic materials, the cost to produce it is affordable and gives the new technology the potential to convert energy from the environment to electricity, said the labs.
"Since there is no need for electrical wiring or battery replacements, this development could enable the use of sensors in previously unserved applications and regions,'' the labs reported. Examples of how the technology could be used include powering a variety of sensor networks and medical-sensing technologies, such as those for body temperature, blood pressure, and heartbeats.
It could also be used for environmental purposes, such as forecasting weather in remote areas where it is difficult to change batteries or install electric lines, the labs noted. The hybrid technology could supply power using both ambient light and heat if one or the other alone is insufficient to power a sensor.
Fujitsu Labs is continuing to work on the hybrid technology to increase performance and is hoping to commercialize it by around 2015.