Development platform aids evaluation of energy harvesting
15 May 2012
Modular system makes it easy to test if harvested energy is a viable power source for applications.
Future Energy Solutions, a division of technical broadline distributor Future Electronics, has introduced a development system that enables design engineers to assess the feasibility of using harvested energy to power devices such as wireless sensors.
The Energy Harvesting Platform comes with a proprietary PC software tool, which shows the user in real time the flow of energy from its capture by a device such as a solar panel, through conversion and storage, to its use in an application. This means it is easier than ever before for system designers to discover through real-world testing, whether their application can run reliably on energy from sources such as ambient light, heat, vibrations or radio waves.
The platform consists of five modules connected to a measurement and control motherboard. As shipped, the platform features a Sharp solar panel module that supplies a supercapacitor energy storage module via a power conversion module. The supercapacitors supply power to an application module (which may be populated with a device such as a low-power RF transmitter) via a second power conversion module.
Each module can easily be detached and replaced by a different module. For instance, designers may experiment with a different energy source by replacing the solar panel module with a vibration power harvester module. Similarly, the supercapacitor module may be replaced by a battery pack.
The control motherboard enables the user to track and record real power capture and usage data in the intended application and location. This means that designers can see, for instance, how much solar energy can be captured at any given site.
The board also includes relays that switch each of the modules independently. By switching off the application module and the DC-DC converter that supplies it, the user can see how long it takes to charge the supercapacitors with harvested solar energy in no-load conditions. Switching off the solar panel module shows how long the application can run in the dark.
Nathan Lee, Technical Sales Manager of Future Energy Solutions, said: “Energy harvesting is a very attractive technology for OEMs, because it promises a source of energy which is not connected to mains power and which will never be exhausted. But the practical difficulties and risks in implementing an off-grid solution powered by harvested energy have deterred many developers from seriously considering it.
“Now the Energy Harvesting Platform from Future Energy Solutions provides a way for designers to find out whether harvested energy is a viable power source for their application, by testing it in real operating conditions and observing the energy capture and usage data.”
The Energy Harvesting Platform, which is designed and manufactured by Future Energy Solutions, is now available for loan to customers of Future Electronics or Future Energy Solutions.