Join BSAC for a Miniconference on Extreme MicroEnergy Harvesting and Storage

Contributed by John Huggins, Executive Director, Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center, UC Berkeley

As the more accessible methods for micro energy (microwatt-hour to watt-hour) harvesting and storage become commercialized, the research community will focus on extremes in efficiency and cost breakthroughs and exploration of entirely new methods and applications. Make no mistake; there is plenty of exciting new ground to be covered! We will in this session profile the space of current and anticipated micro energy harvesting needs and approaches suitable for sensing, computing, and communications.

The Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center will conduct this afternoon- through- evening conference and reception at the Leeds Certified Green David Brower Center on the edge of the beautiful UC Berkeley campus on Wednesday March 9th.

Applications Drivers: Energy Consumption in Communicating Sensor Networks

Will radical reductions in power requirements of wireless radios and integrated sensors and processors make energy “harvesting” ubiquitous, or unnecessary? Application requirements, hardware trends, and protocol efficiency will be discussed in the context of energy harvesting solutions.

Advanced Sensing Technology for Harsh Environments

Present and future research directions for harsh environment telemetry will be discussed in this presentation. Using the application of sensors in geothermal power plants as a focus, a comprehensive research program will be described for the development of sensors, telemetry, energy harvesting, materials, packaging and bonding. Aluminum Nitride and Silicon Carbide material technologies (as well as other related material technologies) will be described.

Energy Harvesting and Sensing for the Power Grid

BSAC work on energy harvesting and wireless sensors for the Smart Grid will be discussed. The current situation of sparse deployment of expensive sensors for even basic electrical parameters and without ability to quickly locate faults, and with no way of predicting future faults will be addressed by these technologies. As renewable but rapidly fluctuating wind and solar power sources are connected, the sensing and actuation situation will become critical.

Small, hermetically sealed, meso-scale and MEMS-based lightweight sensors and scavengers with the goal of increase in the granularity of sensing and the controllability of our power grids. Some of these devices involve piezo-magnetic harvesting, MEMS-on-glass manufacture and packaging, and scavengers that draw the small amount of energy they need from the power lines themselves. They will include new methods for extending the usable life of piezoelectric members.

Cost Effective and Efficient Microphotovoltaics

Solar energy presents a viable candidate for fossil fuel replacement. In this regard, developing technologies for $1/W installed PV system is needed. The choice of materials and cell architecture, the cost and abundance of the raw materials, the component manufacturing costs, the cell design and framework, the capital cost, and the installation costs are all important contributing factors to the final cost. Although there is considerable current focus on the absorber materials and the required deposition processes, the rest of the cell, including transparent conductors, texturing, optical coatings, etc., and reliability are equally important. All of these are fundamentally materials related problems and progress requires an interdisciplinary approach drawing on materials science, chemistry, applied physics, mechanical and electrical engineering, however, significant challenges exist in developing efficient and low cost systems that are scalable to small formats and small capacities (micropower) as well as to commercial scale (kilowatts to megawatts).

Micro Energy Storage

Micro energy storage is indispensable for energy harvester systems. Energy generation from various resources is required to be stored and released when the power is needed. Two systems are commonly known in the macroscale systems: battery and supercapacitors. This talk will provide efforts in micro energy storage systems including high power density supercapacitors with high energy storage capability and nanostructure-based micro batteries.

Biologically-Inspired Scavenging Technologies

Recent developments focusing on two very different bio-inspired energy harvesting Microsystems will be discussed. The first, in collaboration with CFD Corporation, is a miniaturized electrochemical system for harvesting energy from an insect’s reactions with the sugar trehalose. The system is being designed to produce 100’s of uW’s in a compact footprint, suitable for powering instrumentation on a cyborg insect. A similar system is being studied for mammalian implants. The second topic will briefly discuss developments in the scavenging of power from evaporation and low pressure head flows, including our work on microscale boundary-layer turbines (so-called Tesla turbines), a topic which has applications beyond scavenging.

Panel and Mixing Reception

The topics are certain to generate interest if not some controversy among the audience and speakers. An extended reception and mixing event will allow continuation of the discussions and renewal of prior and establishment of new connections among practitioners, students, and investors of impacted applications.

Agenda and registration can be found here:


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