Energy charging, the process of storing renewable power for small, self-contained devices such as wearables, could save resources that would otherwise be lost. Body heat or the movement of a person’s arm could help keep their smartwatch running, for example. This ambient energy is safely stored in the form of electrons. On Wednesday, Texas Instruments took to Twitter to discuss the benefits of energy charging and its current usage.
The company sells various components used in energy storage and memory, including FRAM (ferroelectric RAM) microcontrollers, as well as displaying designs for energy harvesters.
Thermoelectric and pyroelectric materials capture heat, while piezoelectric materials can capture vibration, movement, or sound. Both can store the energy and transform it into electrical power. The conversation also featured discussion of how energy can be harvested from wind turbines, including using a moving magnetic field.
One participant was concerned about the technology’s lifetime:
Product Design & Development editorial director David Mantey asked about the use of energy harvesting in soft devices:
There are some limits to the technology today. Twitter user adroit_91 said that solar is physically too big to be viable for wearables. However, all of the respondents said that they don’t think energy harvesting is just a trend.
It could be particularly helpful for Internet of Things products, where it could mean less of a need for batteries and wired power. Smart cities, in which wearables and IoT devices are threaded throughout physical infrastructure, might benefit the most.
The Twitter chat ran for about an hour, but Texas Instruments also directed interested viewers to their engineer-to-engineer support forums, where an active community discusses battery management, wireless power and charging, energy harvesting and related topics.
Ultra-low power devices that generate their own energy might be the key to popularizing wearables, design professionals from companies such as Dialog Semiconductor have said. It looks like the Twitter community agrees, although there’s still work to be done before solar and storage reach a peak efficiency that makes running wearables truly easy.
Filed Under: Energy management + harvesting, Rapid prototyping