Energy harvesting (EH, also known as power harvesting, energy scavenging, or ambient power) is the process by which energy is derived from external sources (e.g., solar power, thermal energy, wind energy, salinity gradients, and kinetic energy, also known as ambient energy), then stored for use by small, wireless autonomous devices, like those used in wearable electronics, condition monitoring, and wireless sensor networks. Energy harvesters usually provide a very small amount of power for low-energy electronics. While the input fuel to some large-scale energy generation costs resources (oil, coal, etc.), the energy source for energy harvesters is present as ambient background. For example, temperature gradients exist from the operation of a combustion engine and in urban areas, there is a large amount of electromagnetic energy in the environment due to radio and television broadcasting. One of the first examples of ambient energy being used to produce electricity was the successful use of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) to generate the crystal radio. The principles of energy harvesting from ambient EMR can be demonstrated with basic components. Energy harvesting devices converting ambient energy into electrical energy have attracted much interest in both the military and commercial sectors. Some systems convert motion, such as that of ocean waves, into electricity to be used by oceanographic monitoring sensors for autonomous operation. Future applications may include high-power output devices (or arrays of such devices) deployed at remote locations to serve as reliable power stations for large systems. Another application is in wearable electronics, where energy-harvesting devices can power or recharge cell phones, mobile computers, and radio communication equipment. All of these devices must be sufficiently robust to endure long-term exposure to hostile environments and have a broad range of dynamic sensitivity to exploit the entire spectrum of wave motions.
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