It is estimated that there will be 20 billion connected devices in use worldwide by 2020. The resulting demand for batteries would, it’s predicted, consume 75-250% of the world’s lithium reserves and 50% of cobalt by 2050. Even if recycling works effectively, demand is likely to outstrip supply. In the race to develop new kinds of energy providers for battery-based and energy-autonomous Internet of Things (IoT) systems, competitors recognise the winning advantages of design flexibility and environmental sustainability.
Innovation: EARTO member VTT and its partners developed specialised 2D printing techniques for decorative solar cells that can harvest energy from light sources anytime, anywhere and convert it into electricity. As well as being ultra-thin and more flexible and lightweight than ever before, the Deco-Solar panels are made of sustainable materials and give true design freedom for the first time. They can be customised to any shape, colour and size and embedded into devices and surfaces without limiting their design.
Impact expected: As an alternative to non-rechargeable batteries with additional aesthetic value, longevity and eco credentials, the innovation has huge potential. Its greatest opportunity lies in IoT application areas where there is a growing need for autonomous energy harvesting under artificial, low and natural light conditions. Three product concept development projects are underway, and 10 companies are interested in commercialising the technology.