Energy harvesting materials draw interest in industry
Frost & Sullivan research reports that new technical advances and rising energy prices are driving new research into energy scavenging solutions.
Although energy harvesting materials wererelatively unknown in the past, their unique properties have driven them into thespotlight recently. Technical advancements in the field have led to large-scaleimprovements, giving rise to high-efficiency energy scavenging solutions. Atthe same time, escalating energy prices have necessitated the development ofcost-effective energy harvesting materials to decrease dependence on energysources.
Materials with the ability to support self-powered
devices were among the first energy harvesting technologies developed, pushing
forward the growth of the piezoelectric (PE) and electromagnetic (EM) energy
harvesting materials market. Other materials now available capture light energy
from sunlight at almost all wavelengths, thereby increasing energy density.
Several manufacturers from across the globe have
deployed energy harvesting products for commercial use; however, large-scale
production of these devices has not been attained. Though research has
identified various energy sources for harvesting energy, only a few techniques
have proven useful forhigh-volume production.
A new analysis from Frost & Sullivan "Energy Harvesting Materials — The Road Ahead,"
asserts that continuous technical developments will result in fabrication of
new and self sustainable solutions in various market sectors.
"The design of a successful energy harvesting
module depends not only on the material’s efficiency but also on the module
architecture, which could be the critical factor defining effectiveness,"
notes Frost & Sullivan analyst Krzysztof Grzybowski. "Developers must
place equal emphasis on material development and smart utilization."
Incentives from governments and non-profit
organizations have encouraged universities and industry participants to develop
newer alternative materials for energy harvesting.
Although the outlook for energy harvesting
materials looks upbeat, there are some challenges that have overshadowed the
landscape. High material prices have remained a spoke in the wheel for the
industry and limited the use of several materials.
Restrictions placed on the use of certain materials
intended for the development of energy harvesting devices due to environmental
concerns has also deterred the use of a good number of potential materials.
Within the piezoelectric (PE) materials, the most popular are the lead
composites such as lead zirconate titanate (PZT).The use of lead in these
energy harvesting materials has raised apprehensions.
Apart from this, the increasing consumption of
cadmium telluride for solar cell applications has diminished telluride
resources, rendering it an unfeasible alternative. This fact has also served to
rein in the growth of thermal energy-based harvesting, considering that bismuth
telluride is the predominantly used material for such applications.
"Recent trends in energy harvesting materials
point to an exponential increase in the commercialization interest in four harvesting
techniques — PE, thermo-electric, EM, and photovoltaic (PV)," says
Grzybowski. "These techniques pertain to different layers of applications
such as electronics, automotive, medical, and aerospace, where each of these
diverse domains are assumed to be equally critical in defining today’s and
tomorrow’s energy harvesting."
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