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ST power IC utilises solar cell, thermo-electric generator

12 Dec 2013

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STMicroelectronics has released an energy-harvesting IC that can power electronic circuits and recharge batteries with either a solar cell or Thermo-Electric Generator (TEG). The company says the development may help advance battery-free technology. ST's SPV1050 is suitable for applications with power needs ranging from a few microwatts to several milliwatts, and is also applicable for both indoor and outdoor consumer and industrial systems employing either solar or thermal energy.

Harvesting ambient light or thermal energy to power small electronic devices such as wireless sensors, smart-building and industrial equipment controls, wellness and wearable monitors, protects the environment by reducing CO2 emissions, while eliminating batteries and power cabling, so finally enabling the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem. In the future, hundreds of millions of these devices operating from tiny quantities of harvested ambient energy are expected to be deployed in environments such as office buildings, houses, hotels, industrial sites, transportation infrastructure, and electric vehicles.

The ultra low-power energy-harvesting IC also provides more functions than competing devices, which aids miniaturisation and saves bill-of-materials costs. Both 1.8V and 3.3V regulators are available to power a companion microcontroller or wireless transmitter directly without requiring additional components. Maximum Power-Point Tracking (MPPT) continuously optimises energy harvesting, or can be disabled. The battery-charging circuitry supports a wide variety of battery types including lithium-ion and lithium-polymer, lithium thin-film solid state, NiMH and NiCd, as well as supercapacitors.

"Energy harvesting delivers environmental benefits and helps reduce equipment ownership costs, and is used increasingly as energy-conversion efficiency rises and typical system power demands fall," said Matteo Lo Presti, Group Vice President and General Manager, Industrial and Power Conversion Division, STMicroelectronics.

Inside the SPV1050, a buck-boost converter allows the device to connect to either TEG or indoor/outdoor solar-energy harvesting modules by providing a wide input-voltage range from 180mV to 8V. Average operating efficiency of 90% allows fast battery charging even at low input power levels, while minimum MPPT accuracy of 90% maximises energy extraction from solar or TEG sources. In addition, the integrated battery charging controller uses highly accurate under-voltage and end-of-charge thresholds, and provides safe control logic to prevent excessive discharging for longer battery life.

The SPV1050 is sampling now and scheduled for production in Q1 2014. It is available in a 20-lead QFN 3x3x1mm package or in 20-bump WLCSP tested and unsawn wafers. Budgetary pricing is $1.15 for orders of up to 1,000 pieces.




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