A battery-free carbon-monoxide detector and a heat-activated egg timer are the winning designs in Newark element14’s Energy-Harvesting Road Test Design Challenge, a competition held by the element14 design engineer community for sharing electronic engineering solutions.
Engineers around the world were selected from more than 75 applicants to develop innovative energy-harvesting solutions with the most potential for real-world application, Dianne Kibbey, global head of community, told Design News. Their solutions were created using the Energy Harvesting Solution to Go Design Kit, provided exclusively to Newark element14 by Wurth Elektronik. Engineers and designers can purchase the kit online.
The battery-free carbon monoxide detector, designed by element14 member Wojchiech Gelmunda of Poland uses warm water for energy and an EFM32 microcontroller to gather and maintain energy from the excess heat of water pipes. An electrochemical sensor reacts to carbon monoxide. To test the design, a carbon monoxide environment was recreated by capturing smoke inside a jar.
The other winning design, a heat-activated egg timer, came from element14 user Victor Sluiter of the Netherlands. It also uses the EFM32 microcontroller to generate energy from water through an energy-harvesting kit mounted on the underside of a pan lid. On top of the lid is an LCD screen and buzzer, with buttons below the screen to calculate egg-yolk and water temperatures. The timer works through heat flow that generates small voltages to wake up and power the microcontroller, on which the LCD and buzzer are mounted.
“As a leading distributor of energy-harvesting tools and technology, we’re pleased to announce Wojciech and Victor as the winners of this unique and forward-looking challenge,” Kibbey told us. “Their inventions offer insight into how we can use green energy sources to maximize technology and create a more sustainable planet.”
Other entries in the contest include a homebrew monitoring kit by element14 member Sean Reynolds Massey-Reed of Australia and a TV remote control by another Australian element14 user, Monte Chan. The former is powered by excess heat generated during the fermentation process, and the latter uses a combination of solar energy, RF energy from WiFi power, sound, and forced kinetic energy from charging or shaking the device for power.
Click on the photo below to see the winning designs and other entries. More information about energy harvesting, the challenge, or these designs can be found on the element14 energy-harvesting group page.
Wojchiech Gelmunda of Poland, an element14 member, created one of the winning designs, a carbon monoxide detector. The design uses warm water for energy and an EFM32 microcontroller to gather and maintain energy from the excess heat of water pipes. An electrochemical sensor reacts to carbon monoxide. (Source: Newark element14)
Yes, vimalkumarp, I think we exchanged messages before in comments about your PhD work. It's fascinating. You're definitely doing research in a really promising and potentially world-changing area of technology. I think I said it before, but I will definitely be interested in seeing what you publish about your work. Good luck!
You're very welcome, vimalkumarp. I find this very interesting technology to write about and it's fascinating to see the different methods clever people are designing to re-channel existing energy so it's put to good use.
Points well taken, Ralphy Boy, thanks for your comments and your suggested workaround. Obviously none of these designs are meant to be perfect and usually there is some tweaking to prototypes before they would be put into practice or commercial development. But as you point out, it's good for people to be thinking in this direction and inventing devices toward this end.
Yes, I guess there are considerations like that to think about when it comes to different standards and mechanisms in different parts of the world, naperlou. I'm not sure about the storage system. Perhaps there could be some kind of modification to the design to accommodate different hot-water accessibility scenarios. These are all prototypes, after all. :)
Right off I'm going to say... Elizabeth don't get me wrong... I'm glad to see people are thinking and trying to save energy. And as an exercise these are pretty good.
The reality is though that some of these examples take heat that was created to do something... then convert it into electricity to do a new something else... before it could do its intended job.
Originally, the heat used to power these devices was created with losses based on the level of inefficiency of a system. They used electricity, or gas, or oil, or coal to create the heat, and... it was turned into 'heat' because that is what the job required.
Then... the heat was parasitically intercepted before it could do that work, and converted again, with losses from another imperfect system.
I would not call his harvesting... It is outright theft!
I would call it harvesting if the energy was captured from a source that was not already in a stream to do some other work... Or if it was waste heat taken after the work was done (For example the Australian homebrew monitoring kit powered by excess heat generated during the fermentation process. Great effort that one)!
Had the faucet attachment or pot lid modifications bled off a little hot water to do something that required hot water no one would act like this was a 'harvesting' event...
If on the other hand they were capturing 'waste heat' then it would be a different story.
I'll suggest a quick fix to my complaint for one of these... Instead of stealing heat from the faucet, the heat should be taken from the drain pipe... I would call that harvesting.
At that point the water has done it's job and is taking heat with it; heat that can be saved from being wasted.
Elizabeth, the harvesting of energy from hot water seems interesting, but this implies that the device has to be near a hot water pipe that is hot. In systems in the US, with a large tank hot water heater, this would limit the system to be near the heater. In Europe there are on-demand, tankless systems in use. If you were away for a while there would be no hot water in the pipes. I assume that there is some storage mechanism.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
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