Firms speeding up efforts to create ‘energy harvesting’ tech


Japanese companies are accelerating development of “energy harvesting” technologies for converting tiny amounts of energy into electrical power.

Although Japan lags behind Europe and the United States in the practical use of such technologies, companies here are trying to catch up in ways that include cross-industry alliances.

Murata Manufacturing Co. has developed battery-free remote-control light switches featuring a technology for converting into electricity the pressure generated when the switch is pushed.

The electronics device maker has started a joint test demonstration with general contractor Toda Corp., aiming to construct by 2020 a “zero-energy building” that is totally self-powered.

“To realize such a building, energy harvesting technologies are essential,” a Toda official said.

Besides their contribution to cutting consumption of power supplied by utilities, energy harvesting technologies, when applied to light switches, would reduce interior wiring and shorten times for building or refurbishing of large structures, the official said.

In Europe, such technologies are used in historical buildings where wiring work is difficult.

Solar cells are widely used for calculators and watches, but they can’t efficiently generate power from light-emitting diode lamps.

Against this backdrop, Rohm Co. has developed solar cells that can generate stable power efficiently from LED lights and be produced in large quantities at low cost.

Yamaha Corp. has developed technology to use temperature differences for generating electricity, enabling body heat to be used as a power source for sensors gauging the pulse and other vital signals.