A new Energy Harvesting Network being launched could mean virtually unlimited power supplies for industry.
The Network, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and will be managed by the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), will bring together UK academic and industrial researchers and end-users of energy harvesting (EH) technology.
It will be launched on Monday 1 March, at which point researchers and industrialists are invited to contribute to the Network website (www.eh-network.org) where news and events will be regularly posted.
EH is a means of powering wireless electronic devices by scavenging many low grade ambient energy sources, such as environmental vibrations, human motion, thermal gradients and light so that they can be converted into usable electrical energy.
These devices are therefore potentially attractive as replacements for primary batteries in low power wireless sensor nodes. They also hold the possibility of one day enabling the powering of a range of devices not currently possible, including implantable and wearable medical devices.
ECS and its spin-out company Perpetuum are global leaders in energy harvesting systems and ECS co-ordinated the European Union-funded VIBES project which developed miniature electromagnetic and piezoelectric vibration energy harvesters.
The Network will work to define new research challenges and stimulate collaborative research proposals. It will also ensure more effective dissemination on the current and future capabilities of energy harvesting technologies to all potential users in both industry and academia.
According to Dr Steve Beeby and Dr Geoff Merrett at ECS' Electronic Systems and Devices Group, this is good news for industry as it will create a power supply that will last the lifetime of a device, and avoid downtime due to batteries failing.
"Batteries have to be recharged or replaced," said Dr Beeby. "Energy harvesting is a potential alternative power supply that will outlast the application."
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