With our rapid technological advances, there are so many sources of electricity. Instead of being dependent on outdated methods and fossil fuels, companies are researching and developing more innovative and sustainable ways to power your devices. These readers highlight a few of these powering options. Some might surprise you.
Solar, Wind, and Fuel Cells
There are a lot of innovative solutions out there for supplying an electronics device with power, and some of them are surprising. Below are a few of the most interesting methods that have been successful.
One method that has been seen used successfully is powering devices with solar panels. This is becoming increasingly popular as the technology gets more sophisticated and less expensive. Solar panels can be used to power all sorts of devices, from small electronics like phones and laptops to larger appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners.
Another interesting method for powering electronic devices is using a wind turbine. This option is most often used in rural areas where there’s plenty of open space. Wind turbines can be used to generate electricity, which can then be used to power any number of devices.
Finally, one of the most innovative methods that have been come across is using fuel cells. Fuel cells are a relatively new technology that offers a lot of promise. They work by combining hydrogen and oxygen atoms to produce electrical energy, and they can be used to power just about anything. The potential for fuel cells is great, and it will be exciting to see how they develop in the future.
Three Innovative Ways to Power Electronics
The most traditional way to supply power to electronics is with an AC/DC converter. However, innovative, non-traditional ways to power electronics are becoming more prevalent in tech, and some of these methods have unique benefits to the electronic product.
1. The first and most challenging is energy harvesting. Here, circuits harness kinetic energy and generate enough voltage from repeated movements to power a circuit. These circuits are highly dependent on the application and must be fine-tuned to their environment. The more predictable a motion – for example, an expected frequency in a vibrating piece of machinery – the more optimized that circuit can be designed to efficiently harvest the energy and utilize any power that is generated.
2. Another innovative power technique, one that is becoming more common in vehicles, is wireless smartphone chargers. Unlike energy harvesting circuits which are usually fully contained, wireless chargers operate by sending a charge from a charging pad to the device which receives the power. Both the pad and device have an internal coil, and the pair together operate like a transformer.
A charge is applied to the coil in the charging pad (through traditional powering techniques), and the coil generates an electromagnetic field. When the device is placed sufficiently near and parallels the coil of the charging pad, energy is inductively transferred to the device’s coil, which is used on the device to supply power to any internal electronics. Due to the placement constraints during operation, the applications for wireless charging are limited to specific applications, similar to energy harvesting.
3. Perhaps my favorite innovation to supply power to a device is Power over Ethernet (PoE). Ethernet is the wired approach we use to connect networking equipment. It’s been around since the early 1980s and is found in almost all wired network equipment and wired Internet of Things (IoT) devices. PoE came along in the late 90s and has become more common in recent years, as it allows power to be injected over the existing communication wires used by Ethernet, which we usually call Cat 5.
What is unique here is that the injection of power does not disrupt signaling over these wires. Instead, power is injected by the Power Sourcing Equipment (PSE) as a common-mode voltage onto the wires used by the Ethernet protocol. Because these wires use differential signaling, the transmission across the cable can be observed by the Powered Device (PD), which uses a transformer to extract the power, and is able to read the signal without adversely affecting communication.
I find PoE to be particularly innovative because it allows existing cabling infrastructure to be used with modern PSE and PD equipment. Further, new devices – and especially low-power IoT devices – can utilize the same Cat 5 cabling for communication and receiving power. Unlike energy harvesting or wireless charging, PoE’s range of applications is broad, with the biggest limitation being that a PoE device must be wired.
Ryan Alford is the founder and CEO of Engineering Design Group, a supplier of a secure and scalable platform that allows industries to monitor distributed sensors from around the globe.
Optical Rectenna Solar Power
With this technology, solar energy can be produced at least twice as efficiently as current technology, while only using carbon, nickel, and glass or plastic. All other forms of energy production will be rendered obsolete. My estimate is 25 years of commercialization based on the past 15 years of research progress unless some government (USA, China) becomes interested. After that, everything is up in the air.
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