Freescale harvests energy from small solar panels

Chipmaker shows off a low-voltage "booster" that gets usable electricity from low-energy power sources like small solar panels, electromagnetic radiation, and waste heat.

Freescale has developed a specialized chip that could lead to distributed energy sources like miniature solar cells powering indoor thermostats, consumer electronics, and garage door openers.

The chip manufacturer this week at a power electronics conference in Washington, D.C., plans to demonstrate a prototype of a device that can squeeze usable electricity from low-voltage energy sources.

Those energy sources could be a solar cell embedded on an electronic appliance. But the chip could also harvest energy from other low-power sources, like ambient electromagnetic radiation, waste heat, or mechanical motion, said Kevin Parmenter in Freescale's applications engineering

The chip is a "voltage booster," which means it can convert a low-voltage current to a higher voltage so that a small solar cell could charge a cell phone, for example.

Some industrial partners who are working with custom-built versions of Freescale's chip in military applications, sensors, and RFID tags, Parmenter said. One company is looking to equip portable thermostats with a solar cell to power the device, rather than batteries, and a Zigbee wireless connection.

Freescale intends to introduce a family of voltage-booster chips in the third quarter this year. "We believe we're going to run into all kinds of people who have a low-voltage power sources that we haven't even thought of who are going to work with us on this," Parmenter said.

Featured Video
6
This content is rated TV-MA, and is for viewers 18 years or older. Are you of age?
Sorry, you are not old enough to view this content.

Everything you can expect at Apple's Sept. 9th event

Apple is expected to throw the kitchen sink at us with new iPhones, iPads, a new Apple TV and MacBooks. We'll breakdown what you can expect to see.

by Brian Tong