A Battery-Less, Self-Rechargeable Solution Targets 5G IoT DevicesFebruary 16, 2021 by Antonio Anzaldua Jr.
A joint solution from Sequans Communications and e-peas Semiconductors will rely on sun harvesting to provide a self-sufficient, battery-less device that will be for cellular Internet of Things (IoT).
Sequans Communications has always looked to create 4G/5G power devices and modules for demanding broadband and critical IoT connectivity. In order to stay ahead of the IoT competition, a new approach known as energy harvesting was adopted from e-peas semiconductors, a leading manufacturer of self-sufficient power solutions that revolve around photovoltaic (PV) cells. Sequans and e-peas’ partnership takes LTE modules for IoT devices that gather power from an ambient energy manager.
Ambient Energy Manager (AEM), e-peas’ Functional Harvesting System
In the world of electronics, a fairly new concept known as energy harvesting is quickly becoming the desired approach to avoid large and bulky battery supplies. During harvesting, the energy is extracted, managed, and delivered to a low-power device or storage.
The size of the PV cell can be reduced to allow for energy-autonomous devices to shrink in its footprint. Image used courtesy of e-peas Semiconductors.
Energy can be harvested by using thermal, vibration, RF, or PV-based AEMs from e-peas. To better suit Sequans’ IoT project, e-peas provided an AEM10941 IC, this component is able to transfer energy from PV harvester cells to a storage element. The goal of the new solution will be to establish a low-powered, self rechargeable device that could be used in narrow broadband IoT devices.
Sequans’ Monarch LTE-M/NB-IoT Chip Platform
Sequans’ Monarch is a single-chip LTE Cat M1 or eMTC/NB1 solution designed specifically for narrowband and low data rate IoT applications such as industrial sensors, wearables, utility meters, and low powered M2M and IoT devices. The Monarch chip platform provides engineers with reduced design complexity while achieving a very high level of integration through a baseband, RF transceiver, power management, and RAM memory in a 6.5 x 8.5 mm package.
Monarch LTE-M/NB-IoT Chips are ultra-compact solutions that deliver a blend of LTE features that are ideal for the design of cellular devices. Image used courtesy of Sequans Communications.
The solution is coupled with Monarch’s software suite that focuses on machine-to-machine type communication and is ideal for current 4G devices, helping them leap into 5G and beyond. EVP and head of Sequans’ IoT business unit, Didier Dutronc expressed excitement on equipping e-peas AEM devices, “Energy harvesting technology is ushering in a new era where IoT devices will no longer have to run on batteries.” Dutronc added, “This will have a profound impact on the IoT market and will greatly increase the number and types of applications that can be connected to the IoT, extending it to those applications where direct power connection or manual intervention to change batteries is not possible.”
Sequans and e-peas’ Joint Battery-Less Solution
In an outdoor environment, applications such as farming or industry, device sensors collect data (humidity, temperature, air quality) while the lighting environment is loading the capacitor. The anticipated demo kit will be supplied with a small indoor solution that can power many types of IoT applications using indoor light and LTE connectivity. Through the combination of e-peas’ AEM10941 IC and Sequans’ Monarch module, the collected data can be sent up to 8 times a day, with the self-rechargeable power source. Never needing battery usage, allowing for a 15 cm2 indoor PV cell under 500 Lux (lx), making the devices completely energy self-sufficient and CO2 neutral.
Christian Ferrier, the chief marketing officer for e-peas discussed how introducing energy harvesting ICs to IoT markets would be game-changing, “Not only do we show the viability of energy harvesting technology, but we show how IoT companies can build maintenance-free devices that can operate autonomously, which has a huge positive impact on sustainability, the total cost of ownership, and device longevity.”
In this partnership, Sequans and e-peas successfully demonstrated that a small IC can transfer solar energy, indoor or outdoor, from a set of PV cells, to deliver to a storage element without ever needing batteries. After production, Sequans and e-peas plan to offer a reference design along with schematics for IoT companies. This will enable engineers to design and build their own IoT connectivity solutions utilizing energy harvesting technology.
e-peas stands for Electronic Portable Energy Autonomous Systems. The company was founded in 2014 on the conviction that the trillions of connected nodes of the IoT to be deployed in the next few years will require disruptive solutions to extend batteries life-time. Only two ways exist to reach this objective by increasing the amount of harvested energy and by drastically reducing the energy consumption of all power consuming blocs of the system. At e-peas, we believe that new applications will ultimately be made possible by the combination of both approaches. Relying on 15 years of research and its patented disruptive technologies, e-peas offers a portfolio of products including photovoltaic, thermoelectric, vibration, and RF harvesters interface ICs, microcontrollers and sensors solutions, all thought to be easily interfaced in order to improve system robustness and reduce your application development time.