MANHASSET, N.Y. The move to provide supplemental energy sources for batteries in portable devices is accelerating as more mobile phones, MP3 players, laptops and wireless devices use some form of energy harvesting.
Energy harvesting will be a key topic at the 2007 NanoPower Forum to be held in San Jose, Calif., June 4-6. The Forum will include a presentation by Bradley Mitchell, product development manager at Boeing Co., that will address energy harvesting applications and architectures for commercial aircraft. For example, small wing vibrations can be harnessed for alternative energy power inside the airplanes.
Depending on the application, energy harvesting devices will provide either primary or supplemental power in a growing number of portable devices within the next several years, experts said. "Adding even a 10-milliAmp trickle charge from a nano-sized solar cell to a mobile phone handset can extend battery life to a week or longer," said conference oragnizer Jeff Shepard, president of the Darnell Group.
Shepard claimed that use of a piezoelectric-based, energy-harvesting wireless lighting controls in a recently built warehouse saved over 70 percent in construction costs compared to equivalent wired solutions.
Energy harvesting, energy storage and power management are key issues in the commercial rollout of next-generation low-power devices now being deployed for wireless applications such as mesh networks, wireless sensor and control systems, microelectromechanical systems and RFID devices.
Peter Spies, group manager with the Fraunhofer Institute (Munich, Germany) will address power management issues for energy harvesting applications during the June conference.
Large semiconductor companies pursuing energy harvesting solutions include Analog Devices, Intel, Microchip,
Motorola, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments. TI recently launched its TPS61200 DC/DC converter that can operate using a single solar cell. The device provides a built-in solar-powered cellphone charger that uses indoor lighting to provide standby power.