In a recent IEEE Spectrum there was an article about Wireless Sensors that Live Forever. Sensing is one of the low hanging fruit of nano-tech. There is an ever increasing ability to gather information and even have it analyzed on the edge of enterprises, to the point where almost every business can gain value from some form of sensing. One of the issues though is how to allow that device to communicate what it's gathered, since that takes power -- power on an on-going and regular basis. Until now, being able to gather or store that power has been a limiting factor, since even the best long term batteries that were small enough to imbed didn't last more than a year. With new sensing techniques it will be possible to embed sensors for the long term - like in the concrete of bridges.
This article talks about a couple of techniques to generate power over the life of a sensor:
- 1) Vibration harvesting - essentially gathering power from vibrations either induced or native to the environment
- 2) Radioactive decay - gathering the power generated by the beta particles leaving nickel-63
"Energy harvesting research is important to HP Labs, which is developing sensors for its Central Nervous System for the Earth project, a vision of peppering the world with minuscule sensors. Power is one of the remaining obstacles in making the vision a reality; HP Labs' accelerometers require about 50 mW."
This abundance of low current power will definitely help enable the age of abundance of data.