Feasibility of Energy Harvesting for Low-Power Applications

Energy harvesting (energy scavenging) has always been attractive since sources are almost always available and the energy available is just wasted if not used.  In addition to the three sources discussed in the reference below (light, vibration, and heat), another attractive source is available from automotive vibrations (particularly for sensors) and the more significant and now more widely used source of regenerative braking.

Quoting from the excellent Design News article of April 22, 2015 by Warren Miller:

“Energy harvesting in particular seems to be moving at an accelerating pace. We now seem to be at a point where it is possible to run low-power systems primarily from energy harvesting sources. This is a big shift from even just a couple of years ago.

Three key trends seem to have accelerated this dramatic shift. The first is the wild growth in the low-power market. New applications like wearable devices, smart sensors, and disposable devices are driving the insatiable need for more processing power on a low-power budget.

This rapidly growing market drives the second trend: the availability of low-power MCUs and FPGAs. These devices now offer considerable, power-efficient processing that can be applied to the wide range of applications in the growing low-power market. The third trend is the growing availability of energy harvesting sources that produce enough power to run low-power MCUs and FPGAs for enough time to do useful work.

Shown in the Figure below, is a summary of the power harvesting capabilities of three common harvesting technologies. We are all familiar with solar power as an energy harvesting technology, and it has probably been the main energy harvesting technology to power electronic devices up to this point.

But new technologies that provide alternative — and often more convenient power sources – have been developed. Piezoelectric effects, for example, can be used to harvest energy from vibration, motion, and pressure. This can be convenient for powering a variety of devices in areas such as wearable electronics for athletics and sensors on trucks or trains and for material flow control.

A piezoelectric energy source, as with many harvested energy sources, can be derived in bursts, which often need to be stored and accumulated for later use. In very simple systems, a simple capacitor storage system may be sufficient to give a very low-power MCU the juice needed to power up and perform simple calculations several times a second.

Smart use of the MCUs’ low-power states is usually critical in low-power applications, and newer MCUs can sleep indefinitely while using only microamperes of current, which makes it possible to use them in these types of very low-power applications.”

Energy_Harvesting_Data_Figure-1-Imec

“Perhaps surprising is the large amount of harvested power available from thermal energy. On par with solar harvested power, thermal energy can perhaps be best used in industrial applications where sensors monitor extremes of pressure and temperature.

The large temperature gradients available in industrial process control applications can easily power low-power FPGAs to implement very complex sensing algorithms using digital signal processing filtering or transform functions. Small rechargeable batteries can be used to store power when the temperature gradient isn’t available, but because sensing is normally only required while temperature extremes exist, batteries can be small without impacting sensor availability.

Perhaps even more interesting is the possibility of harvesting small amounts of thermally produced energy when temperature differences are not as extreme. A wearable device, for example, might have available a 10- or 20-degree temperate difference. This might be sufficient to generate enough power over just a few hours to power an activity monitor, heart rate sensor, or position tracker.

A small wristband could provide enough area to generate the power required to run a monitor or sensor. Combining energy harvesting techniques, thermal and vibration for example, could be an even more efficient method for powering an activity monitor.”

 

 

 

The California Drought and Potential Technology Solutions

The drought in California is in its 4th year. Water conservation and development of new water resources are becoming more important than ever.  Clever ideas and the development and application of new technologies to improve our water supplies are critical.  I also feel that the massive commercial and residential development that is going on in Silicon Valley and other highly-populated areas of California is rapidly increasing demand at the same time that supplies are falling.  Water may become the new currency, especially when you include the voracious water appetite in the agriculture industry!!

Clever ways to apply technology to make a real impact on water saved through conservation should all be addressed immediately.  Conservation measures are the easiest to implement quickly. However, most are at the household level and require participation by many to have an impact.

Large-scale sources of new water supplies also most be pursued aggressively.  Desalination plants offer a great opportunity to develop new supplies near the Pacific Coast.  Cost and energy requirements are major issues that must be addressed to make desalination more feasible.  I believe that the cost factor can be improved by standardized designs that are applied to the development of a large number of plants.

The energy required for desalination can be reduced and at least “green” energy sources can be substituted for traditional power sources.

Transporting of water supplies from geographic areas with huge supplies far in excess of their demand to areas where water supplies are limited also need to be explored.  What are the most efficient options?  What are the sizes required for either pipeline or canal transportation of large quantities of water?  Canals and pipelines are already used in California for water transportation, but the sources are also in California and are also affected by the drought (the reduced Sierra snowpack, etc.).

An excellent article by Michael Goldman gives great detail and context on the current historic drought.  The article has the provocative title  of:  The California Drought — “Whiskey’s fer drinkin’ – Water’s fer fightin'”     and is posted here :

http://calpensionsbrief.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-california-drought.html

A high-percentage of the total water used in California goes to agriculture.  Drip-irrigation can dramatically reduce the water used and is appropriate for many types of crops.  Incentives to promote the rapid conversion to drip-irrigation for agriculture should be put in place immediately.

For the remaining part of the water that goes toward commercial and residential use, a large fraction is used for landscaping. Grey-water and other sources of reclaimed water can certainly be used for landscape applications.

 

True or False? There is No Such Thing as a Bad Idea When Brainstorming!

From:  http://www.fairfaxcountyeda.org/bay-area-tech-wire

This article attracted my attention.  Any design book or concept workshop that I have ever attended say that every idea should be noted and considered during the brainstorming process.  We get another perspective here:

“There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Idea When Brainstorming – True or False?”

By Mitchell Rigie and Keith Harmeyer

“There’s no such thing as a bad idea!” Whether you’re in advertising, sales, HR, or just slaving away in the back cubicle, at some point, you’ve probably been involved in a brainstorming session where someone has uttered those brave words. In fact, the mantra is often upheld as the #1 “rule” of brainstorming, long embraced and championed by experts.

But is it really true? After all, when you think about it, you usually hear those words when they’re being used to justify a less-than-stellar suggestion that’s just been made by a colleague. In reality, aren’t there at least a few bad ideas lurking in the shadows?

In our SmartStorming corporate training sessions, we always introduce the “no bad idea” notion. More often than not, a heated debate ensues.

Most of us have at least a vague understanding of the expression’s meaning—but many of us just don’t buy it. When the debate comes up, there’s always one participant, and often many more, who challenge this notion that bad ideas don’t exist. We typically hear comments like, Of course there are bad ideas! If we all decided to jump out of the window right now and defy gravity, wouldn’t that be a bad idea?

Autodesk Completes $286M Acquisition of Delcam

Autodesk Completes $286M Acquisition of Delcam

Autodesk headquartered in San Rafael, CA is an early player in the CAD software space with AutoCAD and later the Inventor line and is the developer of a range of 3D design, engineering and entertainment software. Autodesk announced that it has completed a $286 million acquisition of U.K.-based Delcam, a supplier of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. The companies first announced plans for the deal in November. Delcam will operate as an independently operated subsidiary of Autodesk, with no significant changes to its business. “The acquisition of Delcam is an important step in Autodesk’s continued expansion into manufacturing and fabrication and beyond our roots in design,” said Buzz Kross, Autodesk’s senior vice president for design, lifecycle and simulation products.
http://www.autodesk.com/
http://www.delcam.com/
http://news.autodesk.com/press-release/corporate-sustainability/autodesk-completes-acquisition-delcam

How Material Testing can Assure Quality in Stent Manufacturing

QMED article from Sep.30, 2013 at:

http://www.qmed.com/mpmn/medtechpulse/how-materials-testing-can-assure-quality-stent-manufacturing

From the article:

Comprised of biocompatible metal or biodegradable polymers, stents bear a complex geometry, enabling them to act as effective scaffolds. As they must be able to push against the internal walls of the blood vessel or other conduit into which they are placed, their mechanical integrity is of the utmost importance. An insufficient level of flexibility can result in tissue damage while insufficient rigidity inhibits the device’s capacity to support natural flow.

Designed to address specific applications, stents are available in a wide range of sizes, diameters, mesh patterns, and strengths.An intraluminal coronary artery stent is a small, self-expanding, metal mesh tube placed inside a coronary artery following a balloon angioplasty procedure. This particular type of stent is designed to prevent the artery from re-closing. As it is placed within an artery, it is subjected to rather large forces that must be thoroughly characterized during the product development cycle and as part of quality management initiatives.

Zwick PrecisionLine Vario system
The Zwick PrecisionLine Vario system

Drug-eluting stents are among the most recent types of stents approved for use. Coated with time release pharmaceutical compounds, drug-eluting stents are also utilized in cardiovascular procedures to maintain blood flow. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, more than 500,000 patients in the United States are implanted with drug-eluting stents annually. A chief benefit is the reduced risk of repeat revascularization, a condition in which the patient requires additional cardiovascular procedures.

CES 2014 (Consumer Electronics Show) Highlights Some Impressive Inventions

The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, NV is famous for being “the” place to debut exciting new technology.  The 2014 CES appears to live up to the history of the show.

This article in DesignNews gives some highlights and further details:

Gadget Freaks Rejoice: CES Highlights Impressive Inventions
Take a look at some new gadgets from last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — a self-balancing electric skateboard, a sensor family that will keeps you on track, and a protective iPhone battery case with 32GB built-in storage.

As a new owner of an iPhone 5s, Mophie’s Space Pack looks very interesting (more battery life and more storage are always important!!). The big question is how much added thickness and added weight.  The form factor in the photo below looks impressive and the Space Pack adds up to 32GB of storage and is claimed to add 100% to the standard battery capacity of the iPhone.  You do need a protective case anyway, right??

Space Pack

The space pack adds extra storage for your iPhone 5/5s.   (Source: Mophie)

The space pack adds extra storage for your iPhone 5/5s. (Source: Mophie)

 Mophie’s space pack not only serves as extra battery life, but it also increases the storage to your iPhone 5/5s. This protective battery case with built-in storage increases your iPhone battery by 100 percent and gives you up to 32GB of extra memory.

There is also a Space app that allows you to organize, share, and access the content on the space pack’s storage. Once items are stored, you can access all the files without any network data usage. Another perk is that a USB cable is included so you can charge and sync your iPhone and space pack at the same time.

You can pre-order the space pack for $149.95 for the 16GB or $179.95 for the 32GB versions, beginning in March 2014.

Is Zinc the Perfect Material for Use in Bioabsorbable Stents?

Much of the development around bioabsorbable stents and other bioabsorbable implants have focused on a polymer, PLLA (poly-L-lactic acid) as the base material.  Some new research indicates that a Zinc alloy may make a better bioabsorbable stent as compared to PLLA.  The Zinc would degrade through a corrosion mechanism.

For more information, see:

QMED Online, Jan.16, 2014:

  • http://www.qmed.com/mpmn/medtechpulse/stent-designers-think-zinc?cid=nl.qmed02

“…The most advanced absorbable stents available today are made from polylactic acid (PLLA). Based on nearly five years of clinical trial data, for example, Abbott Vascular’s bioresorbable Absorb scaffold compares favorably to the company’s metal-based XIENCE stent, the current industry standard for nonabsorbable drug-eluting stents….”

Also, see the link to research by Patrick Bowen, Jaroslaw Drelich, and others at Michigan Tech from April 30, 2013 with figures:

  • http://www.mtu.edu/news/stories/2013/april/story88993.html#idc-container

Patrick Bowen also indicates that a preprint of the paper accepted for publication in Journal of Advanced Materials, March 14, 2013, entitled: “Zinc Exhibits Ideal Physiological Corrosion Behavior for Bioabsorbable Stents”  is available at:

Some highlights of the discussion include:

Understatement time: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke Likens 2008 Financial Crisis To Car Crash

Even the Chairman of the Federal Reserve sometimes seriously understates reality:

From the IMPO Magazine at: 
http://www.impomag.com/news/2014/01/bernanke-likens-08-financial-crisis-car-crash?et_cid=3715337&et_rid=54744345&type=cta

WASHINGTON (AP) — In his final public appearance as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke took a moment to reflect on the 2008 financial crisis and compared it to a very bad car crash.

During an interview at the Brookings Institute, he recalls some “very intense periods” during the crisis, similar to trying to keep a car from going over a bridge after a collision. But after some time, he looked back and said, “Oh my God.”

Bernanke admits to some sleepless nights after Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008 and triggered the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression.

Bernanke is stepping down as chairman at the end of the month. He will be replaced by Janet Yellen.

Medical Device Patent Case: Jury Rules Medtronic Willfully Infringed TAVI Heart Valve Patent from Edwards Lifesciences

Smart phones and similar devices have very valuable patents and high-stakes patent litigation.  There are also high stakes in medical devices. Read about this jury verdict below:

Jury Rules Medtronic Willfully Infringed TAVI Heart Valve Patent from Edwards Lifesciences

This story was published in Medical Product Oursourcing (MPO) at:

Part of Heart Valve

http://mpo-mag.com/contents/view_breaking-news/2014-01-16/jury-rules-medtronic-willfully-infringed-heart-valve-patent-from-edwards-lifesciences/#sthash.ZOp8obYx

Medtronic Inc.’s CoreValve system infringes on a patent of Edwards Lifesciences Corp., according to the ruling of a federal court jury in Delaware on Jan. 15. The ruling, part of an ongoing legal battle between the two companies, holds Medtronic liable for $393.6 million in damages.

CoreValve is used in a transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) procedure, a minimally invasive treatment option for people with severe aortic stenosis. It received CE mark in Europe in 2007, but is not yet available in the United States. Minneapolis, Minn.-based Medtronic expects U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval by the completion of its 2014 fiscal year (end of April). Edwards has had the U.S. aortic valve market to itself since November 2011. Analysts expect TAVI to be a $3 billion worldwide market by the end of the decade.

Edwards and Medtronic are the two largest players in the European market for transcatheter aortic valves. And, perhaps as a result, the companies are no strangers to this sort of court battle. They have battled it out in U.S. and European courts before about patents held by Irvine, Calif.-based Edwards.

The Effect of Congress’ 1998 Extension of Copyright Protection

A colleague pointed me to this very interesting article in the Dec 31, 2013 Washington Post written by Brian Fung.  The article highlights some of the significant differences between the duration of copyright protection versus patent protection. And also points out a number of iconic works that would be in the public domain now except for Congressional extensions of copyright protection.

The title of the article is: “If not for Congress, Superman, Lassie and Scrabble would be free for anyone to reproduce tomorrow”.

After the copyright extensions by Congress in 1998, works before 1978 can have copyright protection for up to 95 years!!

The author points out that:

“On Jan. 1, a whole raft of artistic and intellectual works will be making their way into the public domain — or they would be if Congress hadn’t extended copyright terms for the umpteenth time in 1998. At its core, copyright is meant to protect authors and creators. But as we’ve seen recently with a battle over Sherlock Holmes, copyrights can sometimes prevent well-meaning fans from showing the depth of their appreciation for a work by becoming creators themselves.”

“These days things that were published before 1978 enjoy copyright protections of up to 95 years, but that wasn’t always the case. Under the rules Congress made before the most recent term extension, rights-holders of older works were protected for just 75 years — at which point the work would enter the public domain and be free for anyone to use or riff upon.”

See the full article for more details:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/12/31/if-not-for-congress-superman-lassie-and-scrabble-would-be-free-for-anyone-to-reproduce-tomorrow/?wprss=rss_technology&wpisrc=nl_tech