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Energy harvesting for electronic devices

Run-time power sensing that functions correctly in the absence of a stable power supply.

The  Challenge

The electronics industry faces a double challenge. It is working to extend battery life of self powered electronics. At the same time, the increasing functionality of devices makes a greater draw on battery power. The approach to tackling this challenge is often the development of low power hardware and software

But there is a clear alternative approach.

There is the opportunity to develop complementary or alternative energy sources for self-powered electronics. This could be applied to:

  • mobile communications
  • consumer devices
  • digital health
  • autonomous environmental and industrial monitoring.

Energy Harvesting

Energy harvesting is the process by which ambient energy is captured. It is then converted into electricity for small autonomous devices eg. satellites, laptops and nodes in sensor networks. This can make devices self-sufficient.

Each device must contain an accurate power sensor. The sensor can then support adaptive power management. It can determine how much power is stored in the system. It can also manage the charging and discharging processes.

Conventional power sensors or analogue to digital converters (ADCs) work under the assumption of a constant and stable power supply. This assumption is not applicable to energy harvesting systems because power supply drops while the system power dissipates, and rises when new energy is harvested. Hence, what is needed is an ADC that functions correctly in the absence of a stable power supply.

The Solution

We have developed a solution to this problem. It uses a tiny proportion of the charge being sampled to power the ADC. This technology provides run-time power sensing that functions correctly in the absence of a stable power supply.

This invention is a paradigm shift in the approach to power sensing. It provides a fundamental circuit design usable in all low power electronics requiring adaptive power management.

The Opportunity

We are developing a prototype device incorporating this technology. We seek partners interested in discussing licencing opportunities or collaborating on future development.

Intellectual Property Status

This technology is patent protected.

  • apparatus and method for voltage sensing
  • WO2011121323A1
  • publication Date: 6th October 2011
  • applicant: University of Newcastle upon Tyne


Quote ref KT110780

Dr Geraint Lewis: