Space & Innovation

Device Generates Electricity from Heat and Light

A new device from Fujitsi converts ambient energy from either heat or light into electricity.

We can get ambient solar energy from the sun, and renewable energy from heat, but those two have never been combined into a single working renewable energy-creating device. Until now. Fujitsi has announced that it has developed a new prototype device that generates electricity from either heat or light.

Fujitsi calls its new creation a "hybrid energy harvesting device," since it generates clean energy from either light or heat. The idea behind this technology is that it will convert energy from the surrounding environment to electricity.

Here's how Fujitsi explains the technical details behind energy harvesting, in its press release:

1. New structure for hybrid generating devices By changing the electrical circuits connecting two types of semiconductor materials - P-type and N-type semiconductors - the device can function as a photovoltaic cell or thermoelectric generator.
2. Development of an organic material for hybrid generating devices Fujitsu Laboratories successfully developed an organic material that is suitable for a generator in both photovoltaic and thermoelectric modes. The organic material features a high generating efficiency that can produce power from even indoor lighting in photovoltaic mode, and it can also generate power from heat in thermoelectric mode. Since the organic material and its process cost are inexpensive, production costs can be greatly reduced.

Some devices like this are already being widely discussed, including the MP3 player that generates its energy from body heat.

Because it's a lot more convenient to generate electricity from alternative power sources like ambient light and heat without any wires, there is a growing demand for it. But the technology is in its infancy, and it's still pretty inefficient.

That's why only small objects like a MP3 player can be powered by either ambient light or heat energy. Combining heat and light as energy sources in one device means it's more likely to have enough ambient energy to power a more energy-intensive object.

Fujitsi presented their product for the first time at IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting 2010 (IEDM 2010) held earlier this month in San Francisco.