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New Energy Harvesting Network

A new Energy Harvesting Network set to be launched on March 1 in the United Kingdom could mean unlimited power supplies for industry.

The Network, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and will be managed by the University of Southampton School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), will bring together UK academic and industrial researchers and end-users of energy harvesting (EH) technology.

After the March 1 launch date, researchers and industrialists are invited to contribute to the Network website where news and events will be regularly posted.

EH is a means of powering wireless electronic devices by scavenging many low-grade ambient energy sources, such as environmental vibrations, human motion, thermal gradients and light so that they can be converted into usable electrical energy. These devices are therefore potentially attractive as replacements for primary batteries in low power wireless sensor nodes. They also hold the possibility of one day enabling the powering of a range of devices not currently possible, including implantable and wearable medical devices.

The Network will work to define new research challenges and stimulate collaborative research proposals. It will also ensure more effective dissemination on the current and future capabilities of energy harvesting technologies to all potential users in both industry and academia.

According to Steve Beeby and Geoff Merrett at ECS's Electronic Systems and Devices Group, this is good news for industry as it will create a power supply that will last the lifetime of a device, and avoid downtime due to batteries failing. "Batteries have to be recharged or replaced," said Beeby. "Energy harvesting is a potential alternative power supply that will outlast the application."

In related University of Southampton news, a symposium which will reveal new methods for making future low-power, lighter, smarter and more economical computers and mobile phones will take place at the university next week and has attracted almost 100 delegates.

Professor Hiroshi Mizuta, Head of the Nano Research Group at the University's ECS, whose research interest is in the development of novel nanoelectronic devices, will host the 2010 International Symposium on Atom-scale Silicon Hybrid Nanotechnologies for 'More-than-Moore' and 'Beyond CMOS' era on March 1 and 2.

The key themes that will be addressed at the conference include single-dopants, electron spins and nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS) hybrid technologies. A theme of particular interest to the future of working with silicon is silicon single-dopant and electron spin technology, for which six academics will present cutting-edge nanotechnologies for working with dopants (impurities) in silicon.

"This is a very important area as dopants and electron spins in a silicon device are not controlled yet," said Professor Mizuta. "As devices get smaller, the position of the dopant will affect the performance of transistors, so, as there will always be dopants in silicon, it is crucial that we find ways to detect and control them in a manner which maximises the performance of smaller, low-power devices. Furthermore, electron spins associated with dopants in silicon may provide a new pathway to faster information processing devices and higher capacity storage."

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