Energy Harvesting at Techno Frontier in Tokyo

Industry News  July 20, 2011

Energy Harvesting at Techno Frontier in Tokyo

Power Channels: Renewable Energy

The Energy Harvesting (EH) Zone at Techno Frontier was busy with announcements again this year. In addition to numerous university research projects, Murata, Komatsu, and Altima demonstrated three distinct commercial approaches to this emerging market opportunity. Murata Manufacturing demonstrated its progress in developing all the components needed to implement complete EH-based wireless sensor systems, the KELK subsidiary of Komatsu demonstrated the latest developments in its thermoelectric generation modules while the distributor Altima presented products from six companies that enable the development of complete EH wireless sensor systems.

Murata’s ambitious plans start with the development of four different EH sources based on magnetostrictive, photovoltaic, thermoelectric and piezoelectric technologies. In addition, the company is developing solid-state Li-ion batteries to store the energy produced. These batteries are expected to initially be rated to store 20µAh with an output voltage of 1.5V.

Next, Murata is developing a suite of sensor technologies and low-power RF modules. Typical applications being targeted will be machine-to-machine communications for home area networks, building automation, smart health systems and smart grid equipment. The RF modules will include both ZigBeeand EnOcean protocols. The initial product announcements are not expected until early in 2012, and it is expected to take up to another year before all the system components are on the market.

KELK was showing engineering samples of its “mini thermoelectric generation” (TEG) modules. The generators are based on the company’s micro-module cooling components which were developed mainly for laser diode of optical communications. According to KELK, the micro-module is a best module for temperature control of small parts in relatively small heat absorption. The TEG devices are still in the evaluation stage and production is not expected until sometime in 2012.

Altima came to Techno Frontier ready to sell products for complete EH wireless sensor systems. The company was demonstrating devices from both the U.S. and Europe. Companies represented in the Altima booth included: Konarka Technologies (photovoltaics), Perpetua (TEG devices), Infinite Power Solutions (solid-state batteries), Linear Technology (power management ICs), Energy Micro (microcontrollers) and GainSpan (RF modules).

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