Research and development

The sustainable supply of energy has been identified by the European Commission (EC) as one of the ‘grand challenges’ facing our society.

The EC is therefore focusing significant funding and promotion of European collaboration into R&D around energy generation, use, and efficiency.

As part of this, Europe – through Member States’ national measurement institutes – is taking a leading role in the R&D of energy harvesting (EH) technologies.

Measuring EH efficiency
The main barrier to commercial development of EH technologies is measurement. An internationally-recognised measurement standard is needed to ensure that EH systems can be fully characterised, and their efficiency measured, defined and compared. Only then can EH systems be further improved.

The Metrology for Energy Harvesting project, funded by the European Metrology Research Programme, is addressing the need for a standardised underpinning metrology to develop this emerging market. Areas to be addressed include: efficiency, coupling transduction, scaleability, impedance attributes, manufacturability, and cost.

Metrology for Energy Harvesting project
This project is a three year collaboration (from 1 Sept 2010) that brings together Europe’s expertise in measurement, energy harvesting and systems engineering. It will:

  • Tackle the research and engineering gaps identified by industry
  • Stimulate increased collaboration between industry and the European research community

The project will provide the metrological framework, technical capability, and scientific knowledge necessary to develop EH. This will lower costs, increase energy efficiency, and improve sustainability of many industrial processes and commercial products.

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers… you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced it to the stage of science” - Lord Kelvin, ‘Electrical Units of Measurement’, PLA vol 1, 1883

The energy sources of interest to this project are the largely untapped sources of ambient energy resulting from human activity and environmental energy flows in the form of waste heat, movement and vibration. The energy sources of interest range from:

  • Medium energy range (W to kW) – for example heat transfer from automotive exhaust gases used to recharge the battery
  • Low power requirements (μW to mW) – for example heat and movement lost from portable electronics and mobile communications

There is great commercial potential for EH technologies so the project is supported by European companies, from automotive to electronics manufacturers.

Find out more about the potential of Energy Harvesting


Project partners

Seven of Europe’s national measurement institutes: