Creating a World Free from the Need of Charging

Although we are too much used to charging our e-gadgets, the time is coming to obsolete this concept...

Example of the connection to a flexible power supply board…

With a view to addressing the growing demand for Internet of Things (IoT) throughout the society, Ricoh has developed a flexible energy harvesting device that efficiently generates power indoors or in shaded areas as a stand-alone power source for the constant operation of a variety of sensors.

The device

The flexible energy harvesting device, sized 41mm by 47mm, uses a unique power generation Organic Photovoltaic (OPV) material developed jointly from 2013 in an industry-academia collaboration with Kyushu University. The result is efficient power generation in low-light environment, such as indoors (approximately 200 lx), and medium-light such as shaded outdoor areas (approximately 10,000 lx). In addition, the thin, lightweight, and bendable film can be mounted on IoT devices of various shapes.

Application areas

These devices can be used as stand-alone power sources for mobile and portable wearable terminals, beacons, and are ideal for social infrastructure monitoring devices, such as ones installed in tunnels and under bridges. This will make it unnecessary to replace batteries in a wide variety of small consumer electronic devices, which is expected to improve convenience and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’. Since the release of Solid-State Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSC) for indoor use in 2020, Ricoh aims to expand its product lineup as soon as possible by providing samples to IoT device manufacturers, service providers, and trading companies as the next environmental power generation device.

The jointly-developed flexible energy harvesting device…

Research work behind the development

Kyushu University and Ricoh collaborated on research and development to give shape to this product development. This research and development have been supported by JST’s ‘Adaptable and Seamless Technology transfer Program through target-driven R&D (A-STEP)’ – ‘Functional Innovation and Practical Technology Development of Organic Energy Harvesting Devices’.

Example of the connection to a flexible power supply board…

Views of the developers

Commenting on the development, Professor Takuma Yasuda, Inamori Frontier Research Center, Kyushu University, said, “Energy harvesting is a future-oriented energy technology that supports our future IoT society through advanced use of environmental ‘ambient light’. We have been advancing energy harvesting research with Ricoh since 2013. The developed organic materials differ from conventional solar cell materials in that they exhibit excellent power generation performance even in indoor environments. The devices using these organic materials are as thin, light as paper, can be bent, and can generate power anytime and anywhere, even under dim-light conditions. This new energy technology is also expected to be widely implemented as a distributed and independent power source for various small electronic devices around us. We thus believe that this new energy technology will significantly contribute to achieving the SDG goal of ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’. Through the joint industry-academia project A-STEP, we will continue to promote further research and development of energy harvesting technologies that will contribute to our future society through close industry-government-academia collaboration.”

Detailing on their activities, Tetsuya Tanaka, General Manager, EH Business Center, RICOH Futures BU, said, “Our future is to create ‘A World Without Charging’. We hope to realize a world where people do not have to consciously recharge or replace their batteries.

The Internet of Things (IoT) brings the power of the internet beyond standard computers or smartphones to a wide range of objects. Data from sensors attached to those objects can be collected and uploaded to the internet. The data can be used to monitor environments or object locations wirelessly, without the need for batteries. The use of sensors is expected to increase in the future. Energy harvesting technologies using light, heat, vibration, etc., are attracting wide-spread attention as an effective, and efficient, power source that can power sensors continuously.

Ricoh strives to realize a sustainable society and launched solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC) in 2020. Now, we will be shipping samples of Organic Photovoltaic (OPV). We are also working on developing perovskite solar cells for the outdoors and even in space. We will continue to contribute to solving social issues through our business by expanding the applications of independent power sources to reduce the environmental impact through the growth of clean energy technology.

Leave a Reply