ANDtr delivers ground-breaking energy harvesting demonstrator in collaboration with Renesas and Dracula Technologies
Built using AND’s c2 IoT development platform, the device with Renesas’ ultra-low power RE microcontroller (MCU) Family at its core, comes with two integrated environment sensors, and sends messages over BLE to a mobile app, where the data can be visualised. It captures light energy (indirect natural and/or artificial one) from Dracula’s LAYER® OPV module and is capable of sending multiple messages every minute on a sunny day without the need for a battery. The organic photovoltaic (OPV) harvester also performs well in a dimly lit room where the device is capable of sending a message every 3-5 minutes. By charging super caps, the technology is able to charge from entirely renewable energy sources and discharge the energy efficient ensuring high performance.
Commenting on the project, CEO of ANDtr, Dr Nicola Thorn said: “We have been working with partners at Renesas for decades on plenty of fantastic projects, and this one is no different. It brings together a full range of different innovation; our c2 IoT platform; Dracula’s state-of-the-art energy harvesting; and Renesas SOTB™ reducing the maintenance required and significantly extending the product lifetime, while also addressing many of the concerns around the continued use of battery technologies. reducing the maintenance required and significantly extending the product lifetime, while also addressing many of the concerns around the continued use of battery technologies. technology, to tackle a growing issue in our industry. It’s excellent to see it all come together, and I am very excited about where these technologies can grow.”
“Renesas’ RE MCUs developed based on our state-of-the-art SOTB process technology reduces the maintenance required and significantly extends the product lifetime, while also addressing many of the concerns around the continued use of battery technologies. ANDtr and Dracula Technologies were the ideal partners to enable truly battery-less IoT sensors using our ultra-low power SOTB-based RE MCUs.”
Graeme Clark, Renesas Marketing Manager
Tackling the growing dependencies on batteries
With billions of IoT devices now in operation, the dependency on batteries is growing. The latest battery technology has taken great leaps in the past five years. Battery life has improved significantly, and energy density has been boosted to new levels previously thought unreachable. But these advancements have come at a cost. These improvements were only possible thanks to an increasingly exotic list of new compounds; these compounds come from across the world and are considered dangerous to mine, and even more dangerous when out of the ground. Lithium, in particular, has incredibly explosive properties, and other key metals such as cobalt, cadmium and manganese are also hazardous when handled.
But that’s not the only problem. Battery life is still an issue (despite improvements), especially for those with high discharge rates. Non-rechargeable batteries, on average, can’t last longer than three years and rechargeable versions struggle to go beyond 10. Disposal of these batteries then becomes a serious difficulty and risk to the environment, especially if that process isn’t handled properly.
Replacing these retired batteries then brings further costs and repeats the cycle of risk and waste, and in many cases danger for workers.
Energy harvesting at the source of where we need power is one of the keys to ensuring a sustainable IoT industry. Renesas’ proprietary SOTB technology overcomes significant technical challenges of self-powering devices requiring far less in-rush current (the power needed to start up a device) than a traditional MCU. This means that RE MCU’s implemented on the SOTB technology can utilise a combination of extreme low stand-by and active power usage, switching efficiently between modes and reducing the consumption requirements. The RE MCUs also implement an on-chip energy harvesting controller allowing easy connection to solar cells and other harvesting technologies. The Dracula LAYER® technology is a printed technology that generates energy from ambient light using organic photoactive inks which is made from only organic materials. It does not require rare earth elements required for batteries.
This first of its kind, the self-powering sensor is just the start of suite sustainable energy harvesting devices to come.
About AND Technology Research
AND Technology Research is a pioneering, purpose-led technology company working to improve efficiency, sustainability, and innovation in IoT development around the world. AND’s work in IoT has already helped over 250 customers worldwide to build scalable, robust, disruptive digitally connected products. They recently launched their end-to-end technology platform c2, created from over 350 customer projects, which is already revolutionising digital product development.