Hybrid Energy Harvesting Tool Uses Light/Heat to Produce Electricity
December 9, 2010 1:30 PM
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Prototype of the hybrid generating device
(Source: Fujitsu Laboratories )
Novel concept combines two devices into one for inexpensive, easy and guaranteed energy harvesting
Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.
has created a hybrid energy harvesting tool that is capable of drawing heat or light to generate electricity.
This new device is a
because it combines two methods of creating electricity that, up until this point, could only work independently. Photovoltaic cells generate electricity from light and thermoelectric devices generate electricity from temperature differentials. Now, instead of having both as separate tools, they've been combined as one.
Energy harvesting has become a popular idea for generating electricity without the use of batteries or power cords. The process draws energy from surrounding light, heat, radio waves, vibration, etc.
Up until now, the problem with
devices was that they couldn't draw enough energy from surrounding elements to power larger equipment, such as ICT equipment. Power plants and batteries provide much more power capable of running such equipment. Another problem is that the sun doesn't always shine, the wind doesn't always blow, etc. So having a device that relies on only one surrounding element can be a problem if that particular element is unavailable for an extended period of time.
But now, Fujitsu Laboratories has merged two devices into one, creating a tool that can use light or heat to create electricity. Light and heat were chosen because they are the most common types of ambient energy available, and can be manufactured from
that are inexpensive.
To make this device, Fujitsu Laboratories changed the circuits that connect the two types of
, which are the P-type and N-type semiconductors. By doing this, the photovoltaic cell and thermoelectric generator can function.
The device is made from organic material that has a high generating efficiency. It is able to produce power from heat in thermoelectric mode as well as generate power from indoor and outdoor lighting in photovoltaic mode.
With the device being small and mobile, it is easy for every day use. The organic material also makes the device inexpensive, which means it has potential for widespread use. Fujitsu Laboratories also notes that this technology "can also be used for environmental sensing in remote areas for
," since replacing batteries would be difficult in these specific places.
Fujitsu Laboratories plan to commercialize this type of technology by approximately 2015.
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RE: Suddenly hybrids look more promising
12/12/2010 2:00:12 PM
Look at modern vehicles with very high output "smart" alternators. As you ramp up the electrical load, they steal more power (all alternators do this, but newer "smart" ones steal less under low-load so it is more noticeable, plus output has been increasing over the years). That energy isn't free. When you're cruising along the highway getting your best mileage figures, that's because you're not actually generating very much horsepower to maintain that speed. So any increase in load is going to result in more fuel burned. Throw on the lights, fancy radio, DVD players, defroster, blower motor, etc., and you'll be burning more gas.
So while you don't "notice" it as a driver, it does have an impact. Does that mean we should be throwing this on regular non-hybrids? Heck no! The gains don't outweigh the cost and complexity you're adding to the vehicle. Not even close. I just wanted to illustrate that energy produced by the alternator is NOT free, and using more electricity DOES come at the consumption of additional gasoline.
You'd be better off with a very simple mild hybrid, to help recapture energy through regenerative braking, and to allow the vehicle to start moving from a dead stop before the stop/start system even has time to start the engine (this will help eliminate the delay of non-hybrid stop/start systems and makes them more reliable since you've got a larger battery to rely on).
If you really want to utilize the exhaust in a non-hybrid, I recommend a turbocharger.
"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
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