Energy Harvesting Workshop: Tools for the most accurate traceable measurement of energy harvesting presented

A future power source for wearable electronics, automotive engine monitoring systems and even the move to the internet of things, energy harvesting is a multi-million euros market with the potential for billions of euros of growth in the coming decade. In many industries including construction, transport and mobile communication energy harvesting is already making significant inroads, offering new ways to improve the efficiency of energy usage or to power wireless sensor networks for autonomous, battery-less monitoring. However, to realise the full potential of the technology developers require agreement on measurement standards in order to provide certainty to the market on the power output they can deliver and prevent uncertainty in performance claims harming confidence in the technology.


New tools to accurately measure the output of energy harvesting devices and support European industry in the advancement and application of this low power, waste energy scavenging technology were unveiled in the final workshop of the EMRP project “Metrology for Energy Harvesting” (ENG02) end of August. The event “Energy Harvesting: A metrological approach” took place at Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt in Braunschweig, Germany and represented the conclusion of the project. “The lack of accurate and standardised measurement in energy harvesting is hindering the development, innovation and market acceptance of these devices as well as efforts to improve efficient use of waste energy in industry and commercial products. Our work will enable industry and consumers to reliably assess different energy harvesting technologies. These developments will increase market confidence helping to secure wider industrial investment. More accurate and standardised measurement will allow industry to lower costs and increased energy efficiency to make a stronger business case for applications in new sectors,” said Dr Paul Weaver, NPL.


The Metrology for Energy Harvesting Project was established in 2009 as part of the European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP). The EMRP is jointly funded by the European Commission and the participating countries within the European Association of National Metrology Institutes (EURAMET). The project brings together Europe's world-leading expertise in measurement, energy harvesting and systems engineering to provide Europe with the metrological framework, technical capability and scientific knowledge to enable the development of effective, commercially successful energy harvesting technologies. The progress of the project is now followed by a 100 strong collection of supporters from across industry and academia to take the progress made so far even closer to them.


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Project highlights presented include: 

·         New techniques and models to deliver the maximum power output for piezoelectric and other electro-mechanical energy harvesters. This work addressed not only how to make the measurement, but also which measurements are required to make a realistic assessment of performance in widely varying applications.

·         Techniques for measuring energy coupling at the microscale and the power requirements and outputs of Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices. The work will support commercial demand for ‘miniaturisation’ within energy harvesting, vital for its future use in next generation computing and microchip technology.

·         Tools and models to measure electrical and thermal properties of nanomaterial harvesters and their coupling down to the nanoscale.

·         The first reference materials for measuring induced electric voltage within thermometric materials in response to temperature differences with temperature ranges up to 860K. The work will address increasing market pressure for harvesters that work in more harsh or extreme environments such as in car engines.

·         A test-rig able to measure the performance of magnetostrictive devices - a new class of energy harvesters based on magnetostrictive materials that exhibit changes in structure as a result of changes in the magnetic properties of the environment they are exposed to.

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