Common energy harvesting sources

Energy Harvesting Circuit Design for High Power Applications

“What goes around comes around” is a popular phrase used to indicate that in most cases the type of result received is largely determined by the type of input applied. The veracity of this assertion has motivated people for millennia. For example, the bounty that farmers expect from harvesting their crops dictates when, where, and how many seeds they plant. And the best harvests yield little to no wasted crops.

Having access to reliable energy is essential for sustaining various systems that power our society, such as those used for processing, transporting and preparing foods. And with the steady increase in sourcing from renewables, designing and building efficient and reliable energy PCBAs is even more important now. This is especially true for energy harvesting circuits.

Types of Energy Harvesting Circuits

Harvesting energy, which involves collecting and converting energy present in the environment for some useful function, is not a new concept. In fact, using stored potential energy was and is used to distribute water over farms and throughout communities. And the sun has served as a natural source for lighting and heating for millennia. But owing to technological advances, there are many types of energy harvesting circuits today.

Systems that harvest energy include piezotronics, biomass, wave, and pyroelectric. However, for high-power applications, solar, wind, and thermoelectric energy harvesting are the most common.

Common Energy Harvesting Circuits

  • ☐  Solar
    Solar energy is by far the most abundant type of energy available for harvesting. And although its usage is increasing, it only accounts for less than 3% of the energy used in the U.S. Harvesting sunlight requires a collector such as a solar cell (typically composed of mono, multi, or amorphous crystalline silicon and other semiconductor materials), and conversion which is accomplished via the photovoltaic effect—a property where certain materials convert light to electricity.

Major elements:

  • ☐ Wind Energy Harvesting
    In the U.S., wind comprises over 9% of total energy generation. As with solar, wind energy is virtually inexhaustible and intermittent. Therefore, optimal usage requires storage for distribution when needed. Turbine generators, similar to those used for hydroelectric energy systems, are used to convert the mechanical energy created by the wind’s kinetic energy flow into electricity.

Major elements:

  • Tower
  • Rotor blades
  • Turbine generator
  • Power supplies (inverters, DC-DC converters)
  • Storage device (battery)
  • Battery management system
  • ☐ Thermoelectric Energy Harvesting
    The conversion of electricity to heat as currents flow through conductors is one of the primary sources of energy loss in electrical and electronic systems. However, heat can also be converted into energy via the Seebeck effect—a process through which a voltage potential difference forms between two semiconductors at different temperatures.

Major elements:

  • Thermoelectric generator (Seebeck device)
  • Power supplies (inverters, DC-DC converters)
  • Storage device (battery)
  • Battery management system

A few commonalities for energy harvesting circuits include a power supply (to provide conversion, control, distribution, and energy conversion), storage capability, and battery management. These elements enable effective utilization of the harvested energy and are driven by PCBAs and electronics.

Designing Circuits to Optimize Energy Harvesting

Boards used in high-power energy harvesting circuits must satisfy many of the same requirements as high-voltage industrial PCBAs. For optimization of design and manufacturing, certain guidelines should be followed to ensure your board’s performance and reliability meet your design intent and the high standard of quality required for energy harvesting PCBAs.

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Energy Harvesting Circuit Design Guidelines

  • Choose materials designed for high-power application
  • Design for minimal EMI and EMC
  • Apply protection circuitry
  • Prioritize safety
  • Require that board builds meet high-quality standards
  • Work with an energy PCBA expert
Tempo‘s Custom Energy System Electronics PCBA Manufacturing Service
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600, and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Execute your full development cycle from proto to validation, NPI, and low volume production.
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • Performs entire turnkey process in as fast as 4 days.
  • DFX support, including DFM, DFA, and DFT from Day 1 of design.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry. to reduce procurement time.
  • Software-driven smart factory with monitoring and control throughout the manufacturing process.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during PCB assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping.
  • Smooth transition from prototyping to production.

Following the guidelines above will aid you in designing high-quality and reliable energy harvesting circuit boards for high-power applications. At Tempo Automation, we specialize in building complex boards to meet high performance standards in challenging and/or hazardous environments. This includes grid-systems and production facilities that employ IOT and other advanced technologies. 

Tempo employs a white-box turnkey PCBA manufacturing process that promotes collaboration and transparency between engineers and CMs. This allows us to quickly deliver high-quality boards for both standard and non-standard designs that meet energy industry criteria for prototyping and on-demand production. We also provide downloadable DRC files in Altium Designer, Cadence Allegro, Mentor Pads, other CAD formats, and Excel.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on CAD files or how to incorporate your design into a CAD format, contact us.

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