November 14, 2013
Researchers at American university MIT say they have made significant progress in developing a chip that harnesses power from natural light, heat and vibrations in the environment. This could eventually be used to power sensors in hard-to-reach locations, as well as biomedical devices, they say.
An article on the MIT website explains why using multiple power sources is an important step in making such gauges reliable:
“Energy harvesting is becoming a reality,” says Chandrakasan, the Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering and head of MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Low-power chips that can collect data and relay it to a central facility are under development, as are systems to harness power from environmental sources. But the new design achieves efficient use of multiple power sources in a single device, a big advantage since many of these sources are intermittent and unpredictable.
If they’re right, this could be good news for the Himalayas, where reliable data on glacier retreat and other indicators of climate change is notoriously difficult to come by thanks to the inhospitable terrain, as well as the reluctance of different countries in the region to share information. No chip will solve the second problem, unfortunately.
The MIT team’s findings will be published this summer in IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits.