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European Metrologists Become 'Standard-Bearers' for a Booming Energy Harvesting Market

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June 06, 2011

European Metrologists Become 'Standard-Bearers' for a Booming Energy Harvesting Market

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

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The global Energy Harvesting (EH) market will grow from $605 million in 2010 to $4.4 billion by 2020, according to a new report by IDTechEx, a Cambridge, Massachusetts research company.

Energy harvesting (EH), otherwise known as power harvesting or energy scavenging, involves capturing ambient energy—micro amounts of energy that would otherwise be lost as heat, light, sound, or vibration—and using the energy that is seized to power small electronic or electrical devices. That includes photovoltaics, thermovoltaics, piezoelectrics and electrodynamics, among other options, which are now being used in a wide variety of applications.


According to the IDTechEx research paper, Energy Harvesting and Storage for Electronic Devices 2011-2021, this new technology has reached a tipping point, because the required lower-power electronics, as well as efficient energy gathering and storage, are now sufficiently affordable, reliable, and durable—making a huge number of applications practicable.

“From wind-up laptops for Africa, wireless light switches working from the power of your finger, and wireless sensors in oil fields monitoring equipment power by vibration, these are all in use now with many more applications emerging,” said the research authors Dr. Peter Harrop, Chairman, and Raghu Das, CEO, of IdTechEx.

However, internationally accepted measurements and standards to compare EH materials and devices are required—and recently, the European Metrology Program (EMRP) for EH project has stepped up to tackle the challenges that are holding industry back.

Metrology is the study of measurements. Due to the large variety of EH technologies and ambient energy sources, the initial focus of the program will be on thermoelectric and vibration harvesting.

Partners in EMRP include seven European national measurement institutes, with connections to industry— Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt of Germany,  the National Physical Laboratory of the U.K., L’Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica of Italy, Laboratoire National de Metrologie et D’Essais of France, Mittatekniikan Keskus of Finland, Czech Metrology Institute, and the Slovenian Institute of Quality and Metrology.

The European Metrology Research Program is supported by funds from the Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7) , the European Union's chief instrument for funding research over the period 2007 to 2013; and from EURAMET (European Association of National Metrology Institutes). IDTechEx technology analyst Harry Zervos recently interviewed Burkhard Habbe, Vice President of Business Development at Micropelt GmbH, a Freiburg, Germany-based leader in thermal energy harvesting, who voiced his support for the initiative. "Ten harvesters with different data sheets quoting different parameters measured under a variety of conditions are not comparable. This project is helping metrology fill the gap of standardization, taking into account perspectives from manufacturers, integrators, as well as end-users, by defining measurement conditions and qualifying systems and harvesting environments." Habbe also said that, quite often, manufacturers and their clients end up with proprietary, private solutions that impede further understanding and adoption of emerging technologies.  "Certification will put the consumer's mind at ease, leading to a growing market which, in 5-10 years from now will have moved away from small, private solutions," he concluded.For more information on the European Metrology Program please visit the website.  
Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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