Harvesting Solar Energy to Power IoT Devices

Oct 27, 2020

In the future, IoT devices will be an intermediary in many aspects of our life. It’s estimated that we’ll be having between 50B and 75B IoT devices by 2025. The extending capabilities of IoT devices and increased AI edge processing is making power a priority for the foreseeable future of IoT devices. Finding power sources for IoT devices is one of the many challenges to their widespread adoption, as many ideally need to run without wires or batteries. While harvesting solar energy comes to mind first, technology now enables harvesting even from indoor lighting sources. IoT devices can be powered by ambient indoor lighting with the help of highly efficient solar panels and a right-sized energy storage element added to the device. [1]

Solar-Powered IoT System Breakdown

The core components present in a solar-powered IoT system are power management/wireless communication data processing ICs, solar panels with storage units, and sensors. The choice of wireless technology is critical to achieving a lower power-consuming device. The wireless technology should transmit short data cycles and use the sleep state as much as possible to save and conserve energy. The storage needs to be designed considering the application’s voltage, power consumption rate, self-discharge rate, self-discharge temperature dependence, charge efficiency, and effect of discharge on the life cycle. The right choice of supercapacitor with the right voltage combination will satisfy all the above requirements.

Silicon & GaN Solar Cells 

The most popular material choice for solar cell construction has been Silicon and GaN; the reason lies in the gap between the silicon’s conduction and valence bands. The energy of most light particles is very close to the energy needed by the silicon’s electrons to jump the energy gap. About 32% of the light energy could be converted into electric energy with a silicon solar cell making it more efficient than most other materials. The latest innovation in the dye-sensitized photovoltaic cells based on a copper-complex electrolyte makes it easy for harvestings from indoors, such as fluorescent lamps and LEDs. These cells are capable of converting up to 34% of visible light into electricity. Indoor photovoltaics can also maintain a high voltage under low light, which is very important for powering IoT devices. [2]

New Dimension for IoT Sustainability 

The future landscape with billions of IoT devices promises the development of new-generation self-powered smart IoT devices. These ambient light harvesters provide a new generation of self-powered and smart IoT devices powered by a largely untapped energy source. This wave will also pave its way towards powering robotics and autonomous systems. Thus, the combination of high efficiency and low-cost indoor photovoltaics will play a major role in IoT sustainability.

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