As 2017 comes to a close, many people take this time as an opportunity to make educated guesses, and other types of predictions, of what the coming years might bring for certain industries and technologies.
Recently, a concern has increased regarding how to use power wisely, particularly to promote environmental sustainability.
Subsequently, individuals have experimented with energy harvesting too. It involves capturing readily available energy from the environment and converting it to usable power.
Below, we’ll look at some developing trends associated with energy harvesting. All are poised to make a strong impact in 2018 and onward.
Mining Trucks That Depend on Energy Harvesting
The mining sector is not always one associated with innovation, but a Slovenian company called ETF Equipment surpassed expectations. It developed a fleet of electric haul vehicles dependent on energy harvesting technologies and include fully rechargeable, zero-emissions lithium batteries. They also have modular designs that allow mechanics to switch out major parts in less than a half hour.
ETF Equipment currently has six of these trucks. However, if manufacturing them proves sustainable, other companies in the mining sector could follow suit and look at ways of creating improved vehicles built with energy-harvesting abilities.
Materials That Convert Mechanical Energy Into Chemical Energy
The study above revealed details of self-charging pacemakers. Due to the necessity of surgical implantation before use, people never access or otherwise interact with them.
However, a research team from the Georgia Institute of Technology investigated using piezoelectric components capable of direct energy conversion. In contrast to the pacemaker example, people can see as they move. Piezoelectric materials generate electrical current after experiencing mechanical stress.
The scientists found a method to change mechanical energy into chemical energy directly. They modified a Li-ion battery, making it automatically charge with movement. Then, they attached the coin-like power source to a shoe. It generated power as a person walked.
In traditional batteries, mechanical energy converts to electrical energy, then into chemical energy for storage. However, this emerging method transitions the energy seamlessly from mechanical energy to chemical energy. The containment of the energy happens when a new compound forms with an anode in the battery.
The researchers say people using these kinds of batteries could control energy expenditure. They also mention the batteries are most appropriate for small gadgets, like smartphones. However, they caution piezoelectric devices only generate limited charges, which means people must make energy and store it before using the power sources.
Pacemakers Powered by the Human Body
Pacemakers are life-saving devices for people with cardiac problems. However, periodic replacements are necessary, and those operations put patients at risk. Plus, there are toxic materials inside the batteries that could harm people if leaks occur.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut and UCLA have come up with a new energy harvesting-driven concept for pacemakers that could lead to devices that last longer and might not need replacement at all. The team invented a supercapacitor that gets charged from bodily fluids like urine and captures electrical energy. First, though, an energy harvester converts the body’s heat and movement into power.
This type of technology is not yet widely used in the medical industry. However, the scientists believe their findings may eventually change the kinds of pacemakers people receive and eliminate getting them switched out with new ones over time.
Self-Charging, Light-Powered Batteries
Today’s smartphones store pictures, music, documents and more. Many people who use them can’t imagine going without their devices for more than an hour, but often face the hassles of leaving the house without fully charged phones and realizing the batteries won’t last long enough.
Scientists from Hydro-Québec and McGill University are engineering a device that harvests and stores energy from the sun and works with smartphones. If they achieve their goal of a viable charger, people might only need to depend on the sun when phone battery power levels become too low.
The technology is only a laboratory concept, but the team received a grant of over half a million Canadian dollars. It will use the funds to evaluate ways to demonstrate the light-powered charger in action and explore ways to apply it to mainstream needs.
Energy harvesting will undoubtedly shape the years to come and potentially facilitate outcomes people hadn’t even dreamed of in previous eras.
For now, science enthusiasts, tech fans and other members of society can wait and see what develops from the diligent efforts of motivated researchers.