Global experts propose a path to generate clean power from waste energy

Roadmap on Energy Harvesting Materials.

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Ambient energy harvesting has the potential to significantly contribute to sustainable development while also addressing growing environmental challenges. Waste energy from energy-intensive processes and systems must be converted to reduce their environmental impact and achieve net-zero emissions. Compact energy harvesters are also important for powering the Internet of Things, allowing futuristic applications to improve our quality of life.

Professor Vincenzo Pecunia of Simon Fraser University led a team of more than 100 internationally recognized scientists in developing a comprehensive “roadmap” to guide global efforts to convert waste energy into clean power. 

Pecunia, from the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering, where he leads the Sustainable Optoelectronics Research Group, said, “With the rising global energy demand and the challenges posed by climate change, it is more urgent than ever to generate green energy to preserve our planet and sustain human development.” 

He also said, “Energy harvesting materials present a promising opportunity to generate clean electricity, ultimately enhancing the energy efficiency of our daily lives and supporting our efforts to combat climate change. These materials have the ability to convert ambient energy from various sources including light, heat, radiofrequency waves (like those from Wi-Fi and mobile signals), and mechanical vibrations.”

The Roadmap on Energy Harvesting Materials, created by Pecunia and 116 top experts from around the globe, was published in the Journal of Physics: Materials. 

The roadmap combines expert opinions on different energy harvesting techniques, recent developments, and challenges. It also examines key performance metrics of these technologies about their maximum potential for energy conversion. It provides research plans for the future to maximize the potential of materials that can harvest energy. 

Lead author Pecunia said, “This roadmap is the result of an unprecedented endeavor, marking the first time that such a large and diverse international network of energy harvesting experts from America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania have worked together to chart a course for the advancement of these technologies towards seamless integration into everyday objects and environments.” 

Rapid developments in smart systems have made it possible to create smart homes, smart cities, smart manufacturing, and smart healthcare systems. Using gadgets like smartphones, fitness trackers, and smart home assistant technologies, sensors, and systems are integrated into our daily lives. These all function as part of a massive network called the Internet of Things (IoT), which always communicates and exchanges data.

Pecunia’s research team has made major contributions in this field, leading the way in generating clean electricity from indoor light using printable semiconductors and integrating with printed electronics to create eco-friendly IoT sensors

Because of the limited power density of ambient light, vibrations, and radiofrequency waves, it is critical to develop energy-harvesting materials that can efficiently capture and convert this energy to electricity. 

Pecunia explains, “An area of tremendous potential involves using ambient energy harvesters to sustainably power the billions of sensor nodes being deployed for IoT. By providing an eco-friendly alternative to batteries (which face materials scarcity, toxicity, and waste issues), energy harvesters could sustainably power IoT sensors.” 

He explains, “Another important priority is to develop energy harvesters that can be applied on all types of surfaces and objects, which requires energy harvesting materials that are mechanically flexible.”

The researcher said, “Our hope is to catalyze research efforts in energy harvesting research across multiple disciplines to ultimately deliver clean energy anywhere, anytime.”

The roadmap on energy harvesting technology is a united and global effort to help researchers and leaders chart the path forward to accelerate the advancement of this research area.

Journal Reference:

Vincenzo Pecunia1, S Ravi P Silva, etal. Roadmap on Energy Harvesting Materials. Journal of Physics: Materials.DOI: 10.1088/2515-7639/acc550