Corporate Social Responsibility writer for Justmeans, Antonio Pasolini is a journalist based in Brazil who writes about alternative energy, green living and sustainability. He also edits Energyrefuge.com, a top web destination for news and comment on renewable energy and Elpis.org, a recycled paper bag/magazine distributed from health food stores in London, formerly his hometown for over a decade....
Technology Companies Get Low and Light With New Energy Solutions
Low is beautiful when it comes to energy consumption. In its search to go low with power, Texas Instruments has launched what it says is the industry's lowest power DC/DC step-down converter, which increases the amount of harvested energy an end application can use by as much as 70 percent compared with other devices.
The ultra-low power circuit enables battery-free power to applications, such as wireless sensor networks, monitoring systems, smoke detectors, wearable medical devices and mobile accessories.
"Imagine not having to change the battery in your smoke detector - ever," said Sami Kiriaki , senior vice president of TI's Power Management.
Called TPS62736 DC/DC converter, it delivers high power conversion efficiency from 10 uA to 50 mA output currents, and consumes only 350 nA of active current and 20 nA during standby. Efficiency is higher than 90 percent across output currents higher than 15 uA. The regulator steps down the voltage from a power source, such as a thin-film or regular battery or a super capacitor and features a programmable output voltage.
In 2011, TI introduced its bq25504 boost charger circuit with a low quiescent current of 330nA, to allow start-up from single-cell solar cells under low light or thermoelectric generators with low temperature differences.
TI also recently announced sampling of its MSP430FR59xx microcontrollers based on its "Wolverine" technology platform. These new FRAM-based microcontrollers can operate as low as 360 nA in real-time clock mode or less than 100 uA/MHz in active power consumption, and feature fast wake-up time of 6.5 us and high-precision peripherals. The MSP430FR59xx enable developers to add flexibility, performance and battery life to a variety of applications, including wireless sensing, energy harvesting, smart grid, building automation and security.
Elsewhere, Alta Devices announced at the dawn of the new year reference designs for the world's lightest, and highest energy density, flexible military charging mats. The smallest of these chargers, which convert light into electricity, weighs just four ounces, has dimensions that are slightly larger than a sheet of paper, and can provide significant power to a soldier in the field without the need for an alternative fuel source.
According to Alta's vision, the future will be a lot lighter on soldiers. The Army Research Laboratory says batteries make more than one third of a soldier's load, which can weigh 100 pounds. Alta's technology can reduce that battery weight by 70 percent, saving approximately 25 pounds of pack weight.
Soldiers are very likely to welcome how the technology will take a load off their backs.
Image credit: Texas Instruments