The need to minimize maintenance and replacement costs of battery-powered applications drives energy harvesting technologies that bind renewable and ambient sources of energy. Analysis from Frost & Sullivan (technicalinsights.frost.com), Advances in Energy Harvesting Technologies, finds that energy harvesting technologies such as piezoelectric, thermoelectric and others will have potential applications in wireless sensor networks and low-power devices.
"Although micro-level energy harvesting technologies are very new compared to batteries, they can initially be used to recharge batteries and gradually replace them as self-sufficient devices," notes Technical Insights Research Analyst Arvind Sankaran. "By replacing batteries, these devices eliminate toxic waste from disposed batteries and provide the perfect solution to many countries that are implementing stringent rules to monitor power consumption and environmental waste." As energy harvesting technologies harness ambient and renewable sources of energy, growing awareness among consumers to use environmental friendly technology further strengthens demand.
"Low output power and below-par efficiency of energy harvesting systems currently limit the application scope of energy harvesting technology," says Research Analyst Kasthuri Jagadeesan. "It faces difficulty in penetrating the market as it is still in the early prototyping or early commercialization stage, as opposed to battery technology, which is well established."
Along with developments in materials and control electronics, researchers and manufacturers concentrate their efforts on the exploration of various kinds of energy sources and improve the performance characteristics.
Starting with low-power sensor applications, they can be gradually used to power portable devices and utilized in buildings for lighting and temperature control. Additionally, improvements in energy harvesting technologies would allow these devices to provide reliable and constant power for industrial, automotive, aerospace, defense and medical applications.
"Apart from the development of sophisticated control electronics and materials research, optimizing manufacturing techniques and costs can also aid in making the technology cost-effective to the end user," cites Sankaran.
Many academic institutions and companies actively work to push the technology through by tackling various challenges. Some technologies are in the product development stage, while others are on the verge of commercialization. Harvesting of solar energy is an example of a well-developed technology that has influenced the development of photovoltaic cells for low-power electronic devices. Other energy harvesting technologies such as electrodynamic, electrostatic and electro active polymers are under investigation.
Although the future looks promising for these emerging eco-friendly energy harvesting technologies, their acceptance in the market depends on many factors such as performance metrics, consumer awareness of harnessing ambient energy, funding for R&D and collaboration between manufacturers and technology developers. Energy harvesting technology will be able to establish itself in the market place on dealing with most of these aspects.
Advances in Energy Harvesting Technologies, a part of the Technical Insights Subscription, provides a technology overview and outlook for the energy harvesting devices. The study covers piezoelectric, thermoelectric, photovoltaic, electromagnetic and mechanical-based energy harvesting technologies for sensors, wireless sensor networks and low-power applications. Further, this research service includes detailed technology analysis and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Interviews with the press are available.
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