PORTLAND, Ore. — Energy harvesting chips can power sensors in hard-to-reach locations, providing power indefinitely to sensor nodes without maintenance, according to the collaborators Imec (formerly Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre) of Leuven, Belgium, and Omron Corp. in Kyoto, Japan. Their prototype weighs just 15.4 grams and harvests vibrations on equipment to provide DC power to sensors in the microwatt range. It is being shown for the first time at Techno-Frontier 2014 in Tokyo, July 23 to 25.
Omron's part was to build the "electret" energy harvester portion of the two-part device, married to a power management chip from Imec, all housed in the same package. The collaborators hope to shrink future versions of the energy harvesting chip from 5x6 down to 2x2 centimeters. The companies claim the device can be tuned to harvest vibrational energy from industry equipment and transmit sensor data thereby putting industrial equipment on the Internet of Things (IoT).
Imec and Omron will show off their prototype energy harvester board at Techno-Frontier 2014. The board weighs 15.4 grams and harvests vibrations on equipment to provide DC power to sensors in the microwatt range.
Current-day energy harvesters are too large and heavy for many remote sensor applications, according to René Elfrink, senior researcher for sensors and energy harvesters at Imec's Holst Centre. Imec's power management chip allows the vibrational energy from Omron's electret harvester to accumulate and produce a constant supply voltage between 1.5 and 5 volts, according to Daido Uchida, general manager of the Technology Produce and Startup division of Omron.
Omron has not announced a date for the commercial product version of the energy harvester and is currently field testing the unit with key customers.
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times