IoT designers often have long-term deployment issues. Energy harvesting paradigms, including new solar harvesting devices from Maxim, could be promising additions to battery packs.

Deploying Internet of Things (IoT) devices for long-term service remains a complex challenge despite being equipped with high-density batteries, high-efficiency power converters, and low-power electronics. To power IoT devices, designers are faced with power consumption issues that address three specific operating states: static, steady-state, and pulse/burst modes of operation.

For example, in a fire alarm, the small steady state current draw is best handled by the primary battery chemistry, in which case it can be reasonably deduced from the total integrated power requirements of the device relative to the primary battery energy density Shelf life.

However, for IoT devices that change modes between three states, designers can have difficulty quantifying long-term energy requirements. Maxim Integrated hopes to solve this challenge with the recently released solar energy harvesting solution MAX20361.

Energy Harvesting for IoT

Energy harvesting technology combined with rechargeable (secondary) battery cells can capture a variety of potential power sources and convert them into useful forms of electricity for IoT devices.

Basic architecture of solar photovoltaic cells.

Some common sources of harvested energy include:


Piezoelectric and electrostatic

kinetic energy

solar energy

Maxim Launches “Smallest Solar Harvesting Solution”

Last week, Maxim Integrated announced the MAX20361 single/multi-unit solar collector with power tracking, announcing the “smallest solar collection solution” on the market.

Targeting space-constrained devices (and thus battery size), Maxim claims its solution is 50 percent smaller and more efficient than previous designs.

Maxim Integrated said the MAX20361EVKIT provides designers with the opportunity to test the capabilities of the latest chipsets.

Frank Dowling, director of Maxim Integrated’s Industrial and Healthcare business unit, said: “This device opens up exciting possibilities for a new type of supplemental power source that can continuously charge a device’s battery.”

The new energy harvesting solution is said to be 50 percent smaller and 5 percent more efficient than its closest competitor.

“For example, if you can only harvest 30 mW of solar energy per day with a 300 mAHr battery system (typically running for three weeks), you can extend the run time by more than 50 percent.”

Save energy for shipping tracking

IoT sensors with longer runtimes are becoming more attractive for supply chain management companies that require shipping tracking services, such as those offered by LoRaWAN wireless networks. For example, companies such as LoRa Alliance members TagoIO and Semtech can collectively benefit from energy-harvesting designs developed by Maxim Integrated.

But transportation analysis isn’t the only service benefiting from solar-harvesting technology.

Electronic Clothes: Fashion or Fake?

Wearables are another market where researchers are investigating potential uses for solar energy harvesting. The goal here is to develop a “self-sustaining device” that can be worn on the human body.

A solar-harvesting wearable device developed by researchers Petar Jokic and Michele Magno.

Especially when electronics make their way into wardrobes, whether for fashion (eg: ugly Christmas sweaters with blinking LEDs) or for functionality (eg solar battery packs to charge cell phones in mobile phones).

In these solar-powered or solar-supplemented wearable designs, designers focus primarily on the maximum power point.

The maximum power of the solar cell is found at the “knee point” between the open circuit voltage and the short circuit current.

Maxim Integrated’s new chipsets have built-in maximum power point tracking (MPPT), which improves the availability of stable power supplies for devices.

Developers can get creative to remotely support IoT

The IoT and wearable technology markets will continue to demand longevity from developers. In addition to solar, researchers have recently proposed that 5G could be used as a power grid. Researchers have developed a flexible high-gain energy-harvesting antenna based on a Rotman lens.

Whether using solar energy or electromagnetic energy harvesting, the question is no longer whether designers can integrate these sources of energy. Instead, integration suppliers like Maxim are exploring how electronics engineers can optimize sustainable electrical designs.
Editor in charge AJX

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