MEMS, energy, harvesting, thermoelectric
We are faced with many energy and environmental problems such as the running out of fossil fuels, rapid increase in energy consumption by emerging-economy countries, global warming, etc. Against such a background, development of advanced clean energy technologies is critical because it can provide solutions to the above mentioned problems. Of the various clean technologies energy harvesting devices are a clever way of recovering waste energy. OMRON Corporation of Japan is a world leader in Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) technologies and is keenly interested in energy harvesting devices. The author is a MEMS researcher at OMRON and in this paper he will discuss MEMS-based energy harvesting devices that convert heat to electricity. Conventional thermoelectric devices have had limited applications due to low efficiency and/or high cost. However, MEMS and nanotechnology are helping to commercialize this technology with broad market applications. The author will address the latest research and the state-of-the-art in thermoelectric devices in Universities and Industry. He will describe how MEMS technology can apply to thermoelectric devices and shift them from the laboratory to the market. Examples such as the integration of sensors and thermoelectric devices in a wireless sensor network for autonomous systems will be presented.