New development platform enables energy harvesting designs to be evaluated

May 08, 2012 // By Paul Buckley
Future Energy Solutions, a division of technical broadline distributor Future Electronics, has introduced a development system which enables design engineers to assess the feasibility of using harvested energy to power devices such as wireless sensors.

The Energy Harvesting Platform comes with a proprietary PC software tool, which shows the user in real time the flow of energy from its capture by a device such as a solar panel, through conversion and storage, to its use in an application. This means it is easier than ever before for system designers to discover through real-world testing, whether their application can run reliably on energy from sources such as ambient light, heat, vibrations or radio waves.

The platform consists of five modules connected to a measurement and control motherboard. As shipped, the platform features a Sharp solar panel module which supplies a supercapacitor energy storage module via a power conversion module. The supercapacitors supply power to an application module (which may be populated with a device such as a low-power RF transmitter) via a second power conversion module.

Each module can easily be detached and replaced by a different module. For instance, designers may experiment with a different energy source by replacing the solar panel module with a vibration power harvester module. Similarly, the supercapacitor module may be replaced by a battery pack.

The control motherboard enables the user to track and record real power capture and usage data in the intended application and location. This means that designers can see, for instance, how much solar energy can be captured at any given site.

The board also includes relays which switch each of the modules independently. By switching off the application module and the DC-DC converter which supplies it, the user can see how long it takes to charge the supercapacitors with harvested solar energy in no-load conditions. Switching off the solar panel module shows how long the application can run in the dark.
The Energy Harvesting Platform, which is designed and manufactured by Future Energy Solutions, is now available for loan to customers of Future Electronics or Future Energy Solutions.

To apply to borrow a platform, design