Powering the IoT Without Batteries Using Energy Harvesting

A company called e-peas has developed ultra-low power semiconductor tech aimed at extending battery life – or eliminating the battery.

The e-peas energy harvester extracts photovoltaic, thermal, vibration or radio frequency energy from the environment and converts it into electrical power. (e-peas)

Ensuring that vehicles are reliably connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) is only possible when every step of the IoT is itself robust. A vehicle-to-home-thermostat connection, for example, is only as seamless as the thermostat’s own online status. Homeowners know that while replacing a thermostat’s AA batteries takes only a couple of minutes, it is often followed by a maddening amount of time spent resetting the device’s settings.

Enter e-peas , a company that is skilled at developing ultra-low power semiconductor technology that enables IoT and industrial wireless product designers to substantially extend battery life or eliminate the battery.

The technology works as follows: An energy harvester extracts photovoltaic, thermal, vibration or radio frequency energy from the environment and converts it into electrical power. A small (5 x 5 mm) Ambient Energy Manager (AEM) massages this energy/power and delivers it to a rechargeable storage element and the device that needs to be powered.

Power requirements for a typical e-peas application would be 50mV to 5V, and new products will soon be announced that “open new opportunities for autonomous IoT devices,” according to Christian Ferrier, e-peas’ chief marketing officer, speaking to SAE International during the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show.

With only 10 hours below 300 lux, e-peas harvests enough energy to supply the device 24/7, the company claims. (e-peas)

At the all-virtual CES2021, Sequans , a leading maker of 5G/4G chips and modules for broadband and IoT devices, demonstrated an e-peas AEM transferring energy from a photovoltaic harvester to a storage element and then to Sequans’ Monarch LTE-M/NB-IoT module where it powered a sensor device measuring power, light, and humidity. The demo showed that there is no need for batteries, making the device completely energy self-sufficient and CO2 neutral.

“We are excited to collaborate with Sequans,” Ferrier said. “Not only do we show the viability of energy harvesting technology, but also how IoT companies can build maintenance-free devices that can operate autonomously, which has a huge positive impact on sustainability, total cost of ownership, and device longevity.”

He asserted that the automotive market “is looking to monitor more parameters for security purposes. Vibration sources remain the main source of energy to power car sensors.” Added Didier Dutronc, Sequans’ executive VP: “With 5G technology and its ultra-low latency capability, we will definitely move a step down the value chain to facilitate autonomous vehicles.”

“This technology allows for a more sustainable IoT world through elimination of the production and recycling of billions of batteries every year,” Dutronc said. “Energy harvesting offers one of the most exciting visions of the IoT future, and through our partnership with e-peas, we aim to bring this vision to reality.”