Thermoelectric amibent energy harvester

Award Year 

The Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Har-vester technology pulls power out of the en-vironment at the exact location it is needed to produce usable amounts of electric pow-er to run small, low-power devices such as wireless sensors and radio frequency trans-mitters. This capability to use naturally oc-curring temperature differences to generate power from the surrounding environment means that a separate fuel source or battery is not required for the sensor to function. The technology is significantly longer-lived (more) than batteries or other power sources. It reduces or eliminates the need for routine maintenance and service because it produc-es the necessary power throughout the life of the application. This technology transfer effort began when Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s (PNNL) Technology Entrepreneurship Pro-gram participated in the University of Or-egon’s MBA program. A student team de-veloped a successful business plan/market feasibility study for the Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Harvester that identified several promising uses for the technology. Subsequently, a new company was formed. Perpetua Power Source Technologies, based in Corvallis, Oregon, then negotiatd with PNNL to license the technology for applications in the wireless sensor field. An initial research license included an option for the development of a prototype for potential future commercialization. Following a very short development period, Perpetua was granted an innovative commercial license to manufacture and distribute its newly devel-oped product based on the Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Harvester technology.Specifically, this technology provides a more efficient and effective power source for ap-plications where communication between the site of the application and a remote fa-cility is necessary, such as monitoring the structural integrity of dams, buildings, bridg-es, and pipelines, where access to sensor equipment for maintenance and/or repair is expensive and difficult. With this technol-ogy, the operating life and life-cycle costs of remote monitoring systems are no lon-ger directly or indirectly dictated by the 5- to 10-year maximum lifespan of traditional batteries or other power sources, allowing for much more efficient use of operational resources. Less time and effort is spent ac-cessing remote locations to check on and maintain sensor equipment. In addition, the cost savings realized when less travel is needed and power sources are replaced less frequently is significant. Finally, by con-tinuously generating energy from its natu-ral environment, significant environmental benefits will accrue. The Energy Harvester technology’s longer lifespan reduces the frequency of replacement and eliminates the need for disposing of the harmful chemicals present in batteries and other existing power source options. (less)