ALD To Develop Energy Harvesting Solutions For Ultra Low Voltage Applications

January 12, 2009 by Jeff Shepard

Advanced Linear Devices Inc. announced that it will develop energy harvesting technology designed specifically for ultra-low voltage applications such as photovoltaic cells, thermoelectric generators and electromagnetic sources with an output as low as 0.1V.

By enabling the capture, accumulation and storage of ultra-low voltage from devices and processes that produce trace levels of electricity, ALD will enable a new generation of practical power sources for implantable medical devices, remote sensor arrays, photo sensor arrays, wireless systems, RFID tags and numerous other embedded applications. The endeavor will make it possible for low-level energy sources to power intermittent duty cycle applications in consumer, computer, medical, industrial, and military electronic products.

"We have shipped thousands of ALD’s EPAD Energy Harvesting Modules and by engaging with customers, it was evident that there was a strong need for technology that could harness the energy from sources generating less than 0.4 volt," said Bob Chao, President and CEO of ALD, Inc. "Using ALD’s zero-threshold EPAD MOSFET arrays, we have gone back to the drawing board to solve a problem that cannot be addressed with conventional circuitry. With this development effort, we want to enable the type of low-voltage energy capture that was not possible before to enable a new wave of development in the field of energy harvesting."

ALD has developed EPAD® Energy Harvesting Modules™ with the ability to capture, accumulate, store and supply power from a variety of environmental or wasted energy sources and supply it to embedded applications. The existing generations of modules need an input of 4V to begin operating. For ultra-low voltage sources, ALD will produce modules that can operate starting at 0.4V. The company will also target sources that generate 0.1V.

As an example, a single photovoltaic cell generates about 0.4V under light. Normally, a developer would have to string together a number of cells to supply useful voltage to an electronic system. The modules will be designed to capture ultra-low voltage from low-power thermoelectric generators that convert heat to electrical energy using an array of thermocouples. Thermocouples are made from two dissimilar metals and are joined so that a potential temperature difference between the points generates electrical energy as a function of the temperature difference.