Energy (or power) harvesting can be defined as the gathering and either storing or immediately using energy “freely” available in a local environment. Examples include harvesting energy from obvious sources such as photon-fluxes (e.g., solar), or wind or water waves, or from unusual sources such as naturally occurring pH differences. Energy scavenging can be defined as gathering and storing or immediately re-using energy that has been discarded, for instance, waste heat from air conditioning units, from in-door lights or from everyday actions such as walking or from body-heat. Although the power levels that can be harvested or scavenged are typically low (e.g., from nWatt/cm2 to mWatt/cm2), the key motivation is to harvest or to scavenge energy for a wide variety of applications. Example applications include powering devices in remote weather stations, or wireless Bluetooth headsets, or wearable computing devices or for sensor networks for health and bio-medical applications. Beyond sensors and sensor networks, there is a need to power compete systems, such as portable and energy-autonomous chemical analysis microinstruments for use on-site. A portable microinstrument is one that offers the same functionality as a large one but one that has at least one critical component in the micrometer regime. This paper surveys continuous or discontinuous energy harvesting and energy scavenging approaches (with particular emphasis on sensor and microinstrument networks) and it discusses current trends. It also briefly explores potential future directions, for example, for nature-inspired (e.g., photosynthesis), for human-power driven (e.g., for biomedical applications, or for wearable sensor networks) or for nanotechnology-enabled energy harvesting and energy scavenging approaches.
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D. Lee ; G. Dulai and Vassili Karanassios
Survey of energy harvesting and energy scavenging approaches for on-site powering of wireless sensor- and microinstrument-networks
", Proc. SPIE 8728, Energy Harvesting and Storage: Materials, Devices, and Applications IV, 87280S (May 28, 2013); doi:10.1117/12.2016238; http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/12.2016238