Hybrid device harvests energy from light and heat

In the future, battery-powered gadgets and gizmos may seem as archaic as old-fashioned wind-up toys. 

Indeed, a new technology being pioneered by Japan’s Fujitsu Laboratories opens the door to devices that harvest their own electricity from the surrounding environment, via either heat or light.

This technology, which was recently presented at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting 2010 in San Francisco, is embodied in a new hybrid harvesting device that captures energy from either light or heat and can be manufactured from inexpensive organic materials.

This means it could one day be ubiquitous in a wide range of applications.

Fujitsu’s hybrid energy harvesting device is considered to exist in the same class of technology as piezoelectric devices, which also harvest small amounts of ambient energy from the surrounding environment (in the form of vibrations). 

Could this hybrid light and heat harvester device suck in enough juice from its surrounding environment to power our portable electronics in the future? 

Perhaps – but Fujitsu sees more immediate applications in wireless sensors and medical equipment, and aims to commercialize the technology by around 2015.

* Susan DeFreitas, EarthTechling