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OMRON and Holst Centre/imec have unveiled a prototype of an extremely compact vibrational energy harvesting DC power supply with worlds' highest efficiency. The prototype will be demonstrated at the TECHNO-FRONTIER2014 exhibition in Tokyo from July 23rd till July 25th. Combining OMRON's electret energy harvester with a Holst Centre/imec power management IC, it can convert and store energy from vibrations in the µW range with high efficiency to the driving voltage of general sensors. The prototype measures just 5 x 6 cm - with potential to shrink as small as 2 x 2 cm. Its small size, light weight (15.4 gram) and user-variable output voltage are ideal for a wide-range of autonomous wireless sensor node applications in the industrial and consumer domains, particularly in inaccessible locations.
Small, autonomous wireless sensors that can simply be installed and then left to collect and share data are attracting huge interest. They are the foundation of the emerging, Internet of Things. And they could enable new levels of automation and equipment monitoring in industrial applications. The ongoing miniaturization and reduction of power consumption of sensors and microelectronics make these devices possible. However, a key question has been how to power them.
"Energy harvesting - extracting unused or waste energy from the local environment - is perfect for autonomous sensor nodes. It does away with the need for cables and changing batteries, allowing true "fix-and-forget" systems. The combination of OMRON's robust electrostatic vibration harvester and our efficient power management technology enables an extremely compact design that can be installed in even the most inaccessible places - whereas today's vibrational harvester power supplies are too large and too heavy," says René Elfrink, Senior Researcher Sensors & Energy Harvesters at Holst Centre/imec.
"The vibration in the environment of customers are various and volatile. Under such an environment, our harvester can produce energy even just a little. But so far, we could not use our harvester as a stable DC power supply. Before developing this compact vibrational harvesting power supply, we benchmarked power management technologies from many potential partners and found Holst Centre/imec's offering to be the most mature. The resulting power supply meets all the requirements for small, low-power wireless sensors, particularly industrial applications such has equipment control and predictive maintenance systems," adds Daido Uchida, General manager of Technology Produce & Start-up division of OMRON Corporation.
Working closely with OMRON, researchers from Holst Centre/imec integrated the electrostatic harvester and power management electronics into a power-optimized module just 5 cm x 6 cm. Initial feedback from potential customers suggests this is already small enough for industrial application. However, the module has potential for further miniaturization down to 2 cm x 2 cm.
The supply's output can be set to anything between 1.5 V and 5 V, giving users complete flexibility to replace any kind of battery in existing designs or create brand new products. The module contains an ON/OFF signal for efficient duty cycling with low power sensor systems.
OMRON is currently putting the prototype through a number of field tests with customers to gather further input before entering volume production.
Imec performs world-leading research in nanoelectronics. Imec leverages its scientific knowledge with the innovative power of its global partnerships in ICT, healthcare and energy. Imec delivers industry-relevant technology solutions. In a unique high-tech environment, its international top talent is committed to providing the building blocks for a better life in a sustainable society. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has offices in Belgium, the Netherlands, Taiwan, US, China, India and Japan. Its staff of over 2,080 people includes more than 670 industrial residents and guest researchers. In 2013, imec's revenue (P&L) totaled 332 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at www.imec.be. Stay up to date about what’s happening at imec with the monthly imec magazine, available for tablets and smartphones (as an app for iOS and Android), or via the website www.imec.be/imecmagazine.
Imec is a registered trademark for the activities of IMEC International (a legal entity set up under Belgian law as a "stichting van openbaar nut”), imec Belgium (IMEC vzw supported by the Flemish Government), imec the Netherlands (Stichting IMEC Nederland, part of Holst Centre which is supported by the Dutch Government), imec Taiwan (IMEC Taiwan Co.) and imec China (IMEC Microelectronics (Shanghai) Co. Ltd.) and imec India (Imec India Private Limited).
OMRON Corporation is a global leader in the field of automation based on its core technology of sensing and control. OMRON's business fields cover a broad spectrum, ranging from industrial automation and electronic components to automotive electronic components, social infrastructure systems, healthcare, and environmental solutions. Established in 1933, OMRON has over 36,000 employees worldwide, working to provide products and services in more than 110 countries and regions.
In the field of industrial automation, OMRON supports manufacturing innovation by providing advanced automation technologies and products, as well as through extensive customer support, in order to help create a better society. For more information, visit OMRON's website at: http://www.omron.com/.
About Holst Centre
Holst Centre is an independent open-innovation R&D centre that develops generic technologies for Wireless Autonomous Transducer Solutions and for Systems-in-Foil. A key feature of Holst Centre is its partnership model with industry and academia around shared roadmaps and programs. It is this kind of cross-fertilization that enables Holst Centre to tune its scientific strategy to industrial needs.
Holst Centre was set up in 2005 by imec (Flanders, Belgium) and TNO (The Netherlands) with support from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Government of Flanders. It is named after Gilles Holst, a Dutch pioneer in Research and Development and first director of Philips Research.
Located on High Tech Campus Eindhoven, Holst Centre benefits from the state-of-the-art on-site facilities. Holst Centre has over 180 employees from around 28 nationalities and a commitment from more than 45 industrial partners. Visit us at www.holstcentre.com.
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Anna Crowe | Business Technology
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