SST Book Review: Energy Harvesting for Autonomous Systems

Contributing editor Steve Groothuis reviews a book titled “Energy Harvesting for Autonomous Systems (Smart Materials, Structures, and Systems).” The book is by Stephen Beeby (Author, Editor), and Neil White (Editor).

Enhancing energy and power capacity in industrial, mobile, and consumer devices may be the inflection point in guiding energy harvesting from a specialty market into the mainstream consumer market.  Energy harvesting is can be viewed as a practical approach to powering autonomous systems.

This book highlights the progression from the basic principles behind energy harvesting to the comprehensive systems that control the sensing, actuation, and transmission of those devices.  The basic principles include solid state physics, mechanics, chemistry, electronics, and general engineering.

The authors develop detailed discussions of the options for “harvesting energy from localized, renewable sources (e.g., photovoltaic, kinetic, thermoelectric) and their supply of power to autonomous wireless devices and systems”. The reader is exposed to various types of autonomous system and wireless networks which may not be apparent from and energy harvesting perspective.

The book focuses on the most promising harvesting techniques, including solar, kinetic, and thermal energy.  The reader will also learn the implications of the energy harvesting techniques on the design of the power management electronics in a system. This book is a comprehensive guide and discusses each energy-harvesting devices/systems with a high resolution.  The authors are aware enough to mention the pros and cons of their approaches and the similarities and differences between competing energy harvesting systems.

In order for these autonomous systems to be successful, one needs to understand the need for a high—efficiency energy storage (e.g., microbatteries and supercapacitors), a robust power management, lower power dissipation to the environment for maximizing the system’s viable in today’s energy market.

In the final chapter, a contributing author (Neil Grabham) pulls together a case study with all of the key careabouts in constructing a complete system for harvesting energy and using it in productive systems.  From designing hardware and software to developing a more intelligent system that is energy-aware, the reader can leverage all of the details from the previous chapters to draft a simple to more complex autonomous system for harnessing energy harvesting devices.  With recommendations on choice of microprocessors, reasoning of energy storage modules, and energy management schemes, the imminent success of designing, developing, and manufacturing such a autonomous system is ensured.

The book provides a distinguished list of contributing authors, a healthy number of references at the end of each chapter, and a sizeable number of schematics and diagrams to help the reader visually.  The book separates itself from other similar works by reiterating the unified theme of structuring communication hardware, energy management, and intelligent sensing throughout the entire book.  Pulling this theme off with multiple contributing authors is a sign of great editors wanting the reader to focus on the essentials of Energy Harvesting for Autonomous Systems.

About the reviewer: Steve Groothuis started his career at Texas Instruments in Dallas, TX in 1983 as a Package Technologist.  He worked on both sustaining and new package development projects.  His major focuses at that time were: package reliability, package simulation, and design for manufacturability.  Prior to leaving TI, he was TI’s Advanced Semiconductor Packaging Lab Manager with a diverse engineering staff. In 1997, he was a Multiphysics Industry Specialist for ANSYS, Inc., defining Computer-Aided Engineering simulation software market plans, strategic accounts management, electronics packaging, MEMS initiatives, and product development for the electronics industry.

From 2000-2008, his responsibilities started as Senior Package Engineer and evolved to Technology CAD  & Analysis Manager in the Process R&D Department at Micron Technology.  His responsibilities included working with device and process simulations for new cell designs, supporting most aspects of semiconductor package simulations, and assessing new technology.

From 2008-2011, he was a Principal Consulting Engineer with SimuTech Group, Inc. He was actively involved in developing & winning new business opportunities in CAE consulting projects. His efforts are focused on markets such as semiconductors, MEMS, semiconductor packaging license litigation, and Alternate Energy. Mr. Groothuis returned to Micron Technology as a Sr. MTS and Simulation Group Manager focused on 3DI package development, Hybrid Memory Cube, Emerging Memory technologies, and wafer-level manufacturability & reliability.

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