Conferences and Forums
The field of energy harvesting continued to “harvest” technological developments and new products during the last six months.
In July, Microchip Technology Inc. announced that it had partnered with Cymbet Corp. to provide what it said was the world’s first customizable energy harvesting application development kit – the XLP 16-bit Energy Harvesting Development Kit.
The kit includes a modular development board populated with the PIC24F16KA102 microcontroller – featuring eXtreme Low Power – and the capability to add PICtail™ daughter boards for the rapid evaluation of a wide variety of system functions, including ZigBee® and proprietary wireless connectivity, and SD memory cards. The PIC® microcontroller’s eXtreme Low Power technology allows users to gain the longest possible operation from the included Cymbet EnerChip™ EH Eval-08 Energy Harvesting Board, which harvests solar energy that is then stored in the EnerChip solid-state, rechargeable energy-storage devices.
Power condition and capacity are monitored by energy conscious software algorithms developed by Microchip and Cymbet. The monitored information can be reported to a PC user interface via a USB connection. Complete energy harvesting application firmware can be fully developed using the included PICkit™ 3 programmer/debugger.
At the end of July, the Techno Frontier trade show in Tokyo added an Energy Harvesting Zone for the first time. In addition to the numerous demonstrations of energy harvesting devices, the event featured the "coming out party" for the new Energy Harvesting Association of Japan (EHAJ).
Brother Industries, Ltd., one of the founding members of the EHJA, presented an especially interesting demonstration during Techno Frontier. Brother showed its Vibration Energy Cell (VEC) designed to replace AA or AAA batteries in some low power devices that can then be powered by shaking. The VEC uses electromagnetic induction to generate electricity. The demonstration system consisted of two parts, the generator and a rechargeable battery, both in the AA battery format.
The generator part includes a coil, a magnet and a capacitor inside the battery casing. Shaking the device sends the magnet sliding back and forth through the coil, inducing an alternating current each time the magnet slides through. The average output of the AA-size generator is currently limited to about 10 to 180mW (frequency: 4-8Hz).