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Energy Harvesting Promises $4.4bn Market by 2021

This year $700 million will be spent on energy harvesting, the process by which ambient energy is captured and converted into electricity for small autonomous devices, such as satellites, laptops and nodes in sensor networks, according to research by IDTechEx.

By 2021, IDTechEx expects a $4.4 billion market for energy harvesting components.

The majority of the value this year is in consumer electronics applications, where energy harvesters have been used for some time, the research company says in its report, Energy Harvesting & Storage for Electronic Devices 2011-2021. In 2011, 1.6 million energy harvesters will be used in wireless sensors, resulting in $13.75 million being spent on those harvesters. The full breakdown is shown in the chart, above left.

This year, most of the harvesters used in the segments in the chart above will be solar cells, followed by electrodynamos, two relatively mature energy harvesting technologies, IDTechEx says.

But many new technologies are now taking market share, the report says. This includes thermoelectrics – the process of generating power from heat. The Department of Energy, for example, is working with BMW and GM to turn heat waste from engines and exhaust into power for the vehicle’s electrical systems. NASA also use thermoelectrics to power Mars rovers.

Piezoelectric energy harvesters are also of great interest due to their small form factor and high efficiency, the report says. Piezoelectricity is electricity produced by applying mechanical stress to a substance.

By 2021, these four energy harvester types will have near similar market share for industrial sensing applications, IDTechEx predicts. But at that point solar will continue to dominate for consumer applications.

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