Skip to Main Content
Energy harvesting has grown from long-established concepts into devices for powering ubiquitously deployed sensor networks and mobile electronics. Systems can scavenge power from human activity or derive limited energy from ambient heat, light, radio, or vibrations. Ongoing power management developments enable battery-powered electronics to live longer. Such advances include dynamic optimization of voltage and clock rate, hybrid analog-digital designs, and clever wake-up procedures that keep the electronics mostly inactive. Exploiting renewable energy resources in the device's environment, however, offers a power source limited by the device's physical survival rather than an adjunct energy store. Energy harvesting's true legacy dates to the water wheel and windmill, and credible approaches that scavenge energy from waste heat or vibration have been around for many decades. Nonetheless, the field has encountered renewed interest as low-power electronics, wireless standards, and miniaturization conspire to populate the world with sensor networks and mobile devices. This article presents a whirlwind survey through energy harvesting, spanning historic and current developments.