Small power generators can prove to be very useful in numerous applications like remote monitoring, if they can harvest energy from ambient sources like heat, vibrations, and light. They can even generate power from the vibrations by vehicles passing over a bridge to power sensors to monitor bridge’s integrity or to keep a network of wildfire sensors working in jungles without batteries. But these kinds of ambient power are often intermittent and unreliable. They prove to be effective only when you can harvest several of them at the same time.
MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering has developed a new chip that does the same. Researchers have faced many problems in achieving it. Sensors needed a steady stream of energy to work and sources like heat and light fluctuate with time.
MIT team overcame this by designing a single device that harvests various environmental sources, smoothing out the inconsistency inherent in any one source. A sophisticated control system is required to combine heat, light and vibrations with varying voltages and to switch around them. The interesting part is that this circuit doesn’t requires much energy for its functioning.
The system combines all three sources, light, heat and vibration efficiently. It stores extra power in a small battery. This chip can power sensors and other devices from this battery or directly from the control circuit. Soon, it could be used in sensors and other low-power systems such as implantable biosensors or distributed environmental monitoring systems.