Silicon Labs develops self-sustaining wireless sensor nodes

Silicon Labs has announced the release of the designs for a method of powering wireless sensor nodes through solar energy.

The firm has created a way to enable a wireless energy harvesting system using one of its microcontrollers (MCUs) which is able to operate with very low level power consumption, while storing energy on a thin film battery.

This means that it’s now possible to provide a self-sustaining source of renewable energy for wireless sensor networks used in a variety of applications such as in medical monitoring devices, agricultural monitoring and environmental data gathering.

While it is not necessarily the first example of such energy harvesting devices, Silicon Labs claims that it is the first time that the technology has been practically implemented alongside an MCU.

Not only does the new design lead to a reduction in operating costs and carbon footprint, there is no need to replace batteries for devices – which can be difficult and expensive in large systems.

The firm says that the devices are able to work in areas where it is difficult to run mains power due to reliability in extreme conditions.

The designs also allow for a range of more unconventional methods of energy generation by bypassing the solar cell to give access to piezoelectric or thermal energy.