Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Mar 01

New Solar-Powered Sensor Could Literally Change the World

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Solar-Powered Sensor Science continues to amaze and one of the latest discoveries may literally change the world as we know it. This tiny solar-powered sensor can fit on the face of a penny and barely cover up the date. How this little wonder, developed at the University of Michigan, is able to create the power of something 1,000x its size is amazing, and because of this, the applications are quite numerous. When devices like this come to light, one of the first things that anyone thinks of is the effect that they will have on the medical community. Many implants require some type of power source and if a solar-powered sensor can be used to power then, it changes everything that we currently rely on or know in regards to this implants.

There are also other applications in just about every field imaginable. Devices would become more cost efficient and they would be able to run forever, or at least as long as the rest of the parts held up. Many monitoring devices would be able to use something like this and environmental sensors would also benefit from it.

Everything about his solar-powered sensor system screams conservation. When compared to the technology that is doing the same tasks today that this device will be able to operate, it takes up both less space and uses much less power than anything comparable. When in sleep mode, it will use an incredible 2,000 times less power. The numbers are simply staggering.

One of the reasons that the sensor is so efficient in its operation is because it spends most of its time taking a nap. That’s right, it is in sleep mode and needs only a few seconds every few minutes to take its measurements. The average power consumption is less than 1 nanowatt. For those of you not familiar with this massive amount of energy, that is one-billionth of a watt. We use more energy than this sensor uses all day just by blinking our eyes.

As stated earlier, the medical world licks their chops when something like this comes about because of the various different ways that they can use it. Even though it is solar based, it can probably be modified to get its power from body movement or heat. This opens up the door for an enormous amount of applications and could make many procedures less invasive and implants last longer than ever before. We can only hope that this little powerhouse is as good as they say.

  • Sepp Hasslberger

    I am trying to think how a solar powered chip can help (except for the fact that it has highly reduced energy consumption) to make the placing of implants more efficient.

    Aren’t the vast majority of implants by definition placed where the sun doesn’t shine?

  • richard

    Where are the massive plants producing solar cells and batteries on an industrial scale? How else will this technology be able to compete? Rather than invest billions of dollars in rescuing obsolete technology in the form of General Motors, our brilliant politicians should have invested in the future.

  • Jim Miller


    Your observation about billions to GM and little to PV is accurate. However, consider that GM supports a huge number of voters whereas the science community dedicated to PV research is small. Size does matter.

    We must raise our collective voices to the level of sustained screams to get the political will switched from dinotechnology (e.g. internal combustion engines) to solar technology.

    I applied EPA for a grant to prototype a new, lower cost mini-concentrated solar thermal energy system. The evaluation was that there were already many mini-concentrated solar thermal systems on the market. This erroneous view was held by an “expert” who was advising the EPA. See:

    Jim Miller

  • E.J. Kelleher

    So this device provides a monitor and switch that consumes very little energy and uses solar power. The article doesn’t mention how it will be powered at night, or during the day in a room with the lights off. The device will need to be embedded in a system that generates and stores power to operate whatever device the switch triggers on a 24 hour basis. This omission leaves room for skepticism about its “world changing” impact.

  • Mido A. Moneim

    Sepp Hasselberger said:
    “Aren’t the vast majority of implants by definition placed where the sun doesn’t shine?”

    I believe the confusion is due to the fact that the article (which should be about a sensor) doesn’t differentiate between the sensor and the solar cell as if they are one and the same, saying the device (which is a sensor) “is able to create the power of something 1,000x its size” which is wrong.

    Solar cell is irrelevant to the sensor which needs electricity regardless of the source. Use the sensor as implant and you will not be able to use a solar cell, as you said.

    In understanding what is the breakthrough here, I could guess that the article should say that the device is a sensor which “is able to consume the power of something 1,000x less than an equivalent sensor” due to the highlighted sleep function.

  • Cindy Shollenberger

    It indicates ‘Even though it is solar based, it can probably be modified to get its power from body movement or heat.’

    I suppose if it powers a pacemaker or monitoring device, or medical device used to detect or treat a disease, it would save thousands of dollars in the medical community and insurance costs. Frankly, I’d love to have something like this rather than powerful medication.

  • Jos Conil

    The novelty of this innovation is its nano size and nano scale power consumption.

    Its not just the medical implants that are going to benefit from this micro wonder. These sensors can be used for almost all intelligent automated systems using sensors.

    For example, intelligent mechanical assisted natural building ventilation systems may need pressure, humidity and temperature sensors to automatically operate the required systems to provide the optimal conditions. These systems can benefit a lot by using these sensors even if the house is off the grid.

    Similarly, smoke detectors if powered by these solar devices, can function even if the power and the back up is not available, as in the event of an earthquake or cyclone.

    Truly, the possibilities are endless!

  • Joe Van

    A “black body” is any material capable of absorbing radiant energy, and therefore also is capable of re-radiating the energy. A “perfect” black body absorbs and re-radiates 100% of the radiant energy striking it. “good” black bodies are used in solar collectors and they absorb and re-radiate (if not cooled) 90 to 96 percent of radiant energy arriving.

  • Sajjad Hussain Basit

    I am really very crazy to know about such things. In which county I am living, I am really very desperate to get such goal that I can devote for my country and my identification as a lover of motherland.

  • Solar Simon

    We love this technology – the more people take it up, the cheaper it becomes. It’s good to see Apple leading the way here, and even better when solar power is a normal part of everyday life. It’s simply crazy that it isn’t already!

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