Design and Energy Harvesting research

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This page is under construction!!!


  • A research by Beam van Waardenberg into the possibilities for WdKA students to add energy harvesting to their projects. The focus of this research is on how this field of Energy Harvesting can be openend up for WdKA students.
  • The next more difficult question is what can be the contribution of WdKA students to this field?

About Energy Harvesting

If your product becomes interactive in any way it needs energy. This energy is normally obtained from the mains (220V) or using batteries. In case of batteries, like laptops and cell phones, the device has to be recharged regularly.

Energy Harvesting means you replace these traditional sources by a way to generate the needed energy by the product you have designed yourself. This can be done by using the energy of the Sun in a solar cell, or wind energy by a generator or the muscle energy of the user by a dynamo.

Why is this nice?

  • Not wasting more fossil energy
  • Not or less dependent of Putin's oil, he might get angry and turn of your device, more general: independent of politicians, dictators, manipulators
  • You or your product use what you need, which is a good principle
  • You or your product could help other people becoming a little bit more independent, you could be an example for them
  • You get empowered, which means you can really even at a small scale make a difference in the energy and climate change debate.
  • you get conscious of energy domains, that means that even using "traditional" energy you will waste less


  • you think you can solve the energy problem: forget it!
  • using solar energy also warms up the Earth's atmosphere
  • many energy harvesting ideas just are incredibly inefficient, using more resources for creating equipment than the energy that is saved
  • producing local energy on a small scale is always less efficient than production on a big scale
  • thinking that you can bypass commercial laws about making profit at the cost of others of the resources of the Earth
  • thinking that you can "help" poor people in "poor" countries
  • suggesting solutions from one domain of energy to work for other domains of energy

Research Blog

In this blog the posts document the progress of the research. The research was not a lineair process. The subject of Energy Harvesting is complex and has lot's of details. This research was not only about knowledge gathering but also doing experiments ourselves.

  • (Transferred) Blog
    • The blog posts are transferred from the Raspberry Pi to a normal Wordpress blog]
  • Former Blog on Raspberry Pi
    • sorry, due to the 2015 NASA App Challenge Weekend, the Raspberry Pi Server is not in service at the moment.

The research result is an energy harvesting game wearable: artistic research result This is still in progress. It will be shown at a presentation of wearables at the Kunst Fach Hochschule Bremen on the 28th of April 2015. After that the electronics will be revised.

The total process of making this artistic result is documented here: [1]

Powerpoints of a course "Energy Harvesting for Designers"

In the "Open AanbodWdKA" a course on this subject was given. Two powerpoints introduce the subject and the calculations:

Categories of Design Projects using Energy Harvesting

  • Commercial Projects
    • Designers are involved in projects which want to generate commercially exploitable amounts of energy
  • Social Projects
  • Projects creating Toys for awareness
    • Designers are creating interesting game situations for children to gain intuition into energy
  • Research Projects
    • research Designers are investigating possibilities of energy harvesting in clothing and devices and probing the social consequences

Energy Domains

  • Very low energy harvesting (Seeback effect, Peltier Element, Piezo energy)
    • With this kind of energy you can send a signal once in a while, like temperature, or opening a door by a wireless signal
  • Middle field, low energy (solar cells, dynamo's for human use)
    • In this domain you can charge your cell phones or smaller devices
  • High (higher) energy projects

Ways of Energy Harvesting

Calculations, Laws, Formula's

In order to be able to make your project work you need to calculate what energy you need. Then you have to choose from the possibilities avaialable which source will deliver that energy. Also you have to consider the circumstances. You can think the Sun will be able to deliver the energy , but if you will use your design product in Holland the Sun is not always available, so you need to consider alternatives. Power Law: P = V * I, power equals volt times current.

Energy Law : E = P * s, total energy is power times the number of seconds you apply this power.

Ohm's Law: V = I * R, Voltage equals Current times resistance.

Example: [2]

Proposed energy installations for the Interaction Stations

Investigated Gadgets

Investigating gadgets is done for hacking. Hacking means modifying an existing device for your projects purposes. In the case of energy harvesting this can save you a lot of time, because the designers of the gadgets already did the research. You have to choose the right gadget, hack it and you might have your project on it's own energy!

Beside that you have experimenting kits. In these kits, mainly solar cell experimenting kits, you can find examples of applying the energy of a solar cell. Most of the time, the design level of these kits is very low.

Some cheap gadgets analysed for this research:

  • Chinese dynamo light torch, very cheap, 1 euro
  • IKEA Ljusa, dynamo light torch, 4 euros
  • Chinese garden lamp, with a solar cell

comparing these gadgets:

Solar cell kits: [3]

  • 6 in 1 Educational Solar Kit
  • Velleman kit EDU 02
  • Conrad kit

Some toys for children:

  • EnergyBugs: energy harvesting wearables for children:

  • Paper generators, working with Teflon:

Ivan Poupyrev and others. 2013

Technical details

  • harvesting chip: LTC3105
    • Experimenting with LTC3105 and solar cells
  • harvesting chip: LTC3588
    • Experimenting with LTC3588 and piezo elements
  • Rectifyer bridge
    • Experiments with a Chinese Light Torch