Self-powered IoT communication through energy harvesting

September 7, 2022 | Interview with Peter Spies and Tobias Dräger

Energy harvesting eliminates the need to use power cables or recharge batteries in mobile devices. Instead, vibrations from equipment, machinery and buildings – or, alternatively, the temperature gradient between pipes, radiators and valves and their immediate surroundings – can be used to generate electricity. Solar cells can also be used for power generation both indoors and outdoors. This electricity can be used to directly power small electronic systems.

© Fraunhofer IIS
Energy can be harvested for example by exploiting differences in temperature between pipes and the ambient temperature.

Are there estimates for the savings potential of this technology?

Supplying a sensor node with power from energy harvesting sources makes it independent of other energy providers. Potential savings include energy storage costs, e.g. batteries, and maintenance work, for example changing batteries, as well as the cost of wired supply and its installation. However, the type and extent of these savings differs individually depending on the application and cannot be generalized across all conceivable use cases.

© Fraunhofer IIS
Supplying a sensor node with power from energy harvesting sources makes it independent of other energy providers.

Will a mass-market-ready product emerge in the foreseeable future?

It’s difficult to imagine self-powered products that are suitable for the mass market since energy-harvesting-powered operations need to be adjusted specifically for the respective use case and the energy sources available there. For example, power supply from vibrations always has to be adjusted to the amplitudes of oscillation and the frequencies occurring on-site.

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Self-powered IoT communication through energy harvesting

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