Fujitsu Develops Hybrid Energy Harvesting Technology for Generating Electricity from Heat & Light

December 09, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

Fujitsu Laboratories has developed a new hybrid harvesting device that captures energy from either light or heat, which are the most typical forms of ambient energy available for wide-scope application. This makes it possible for a single device to capture energy from either heat or light without combining two harvesting devices. In addition, as it can be manufactured from inexpensive organic materials, device production costs can remain low.

By changing the electrical circuits connecting two types of semiconductor materials – P-type and N-type semiconductors – the device can function as a photovoltaic cell or thermoelectric generator.

Fujitsu Laboratories successfully developed an organic material that is suitable for a generator in both photovoltaic and thermoelectric modes. The organic material features a high generating efficiency that can produce power from even indoor lighting in photovoltaic mode, and it can also generate power from heat in thermoelectric mode. Since the organic material and its process cost are inexpensive, production costs can be greatly reduced.

Until now, photovoltaic cells &ndas; which generate electricity from light, and thermoelectric devices – which generate electricity from temperature differentials, have only been available as separate devices. This new technology from Fujitsu Laboratories doubles the energy-capture potential through the use of both ambient heat and light in a single device. In medical fields, for example, the technology could be used in sensors that monitor conditions such as body temperature, blood pressure, and heartbeats – without batteries and electrical wiring. If either the ambient light or heat is not sufficient to power the sensor, this technology can supply power with both sources, by augmenting one source with the other. In addition, the technology can also be used for environmental sensing in remote areas for weather forecasting, where it would be problematic to replace batteries or run electric lines.

The new technology has great potential in the area of energy harvesting, which converts energy from the surrounding environment to electricity. Since there is no need for electrical wiring or battery replacements, this development could enable the use of sensors in previously un-served applications and regions. It also has great potential for powering a variety of sensor networks and medical-sensing technologies.

Fujitsu Laboratories will continue with further development of this new technology to increase the performance of hybrid devices, with aims to commercialize the technology by around 2015.