Tag Archive for: ambient energy harvesting

Frequently Asked Questions

Powercast develops wireless power and RF energy harvesting solutions to provide power-over-distance for low-power applications (low microwatts and low milliwatts). Devices that typically operate on batteries for months or years can benefit from Powercast’s patented, high-efficiency RF energy harvesting technology. The cost of wiring or battery replacement can be eliminated in low-power devices through wireless, remote trickle-charging, or devices can be made completely battery-free.

General Questions

What are the intended applications for Powercast technology?
There are numerous applications that can benefit from using Powercast’s technology. The amount of received power, the use case, antenna form factor, and charge rate must be considered. Devices that operate on a set of batteries for weeks, months, or years are candidates for Powercast’s technology. Powercast is currently focused on low-power applications such as, high function RFID, battery recharging in wearable devices, and LED lighting.

Where can I buy Powercast products?
Powercast technology is designed for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) to embed directly into their products and systems. Products can be purchased through Future Electronics, Mouser Electronics, and Arrow Electronics. If your company is an OEM and is seeking sales support , please contact us to discuss your application in more detail.

What products does Powercast offer?
Powercast offers modules and chipsets. Our modules are the P1110 & P2110B, which are for low volume applications and provide ease of implementation. Our chipsets are the PCC110 & PCC210, which are for high volume applications. Additional information about the chipsets is available after the completion of a Reference Design Confidentiality Agreement.

Does Powercast provide custom development services?
Yes. Powercast has completed multiple custom development projects related to RF-based wireless power and RF energy harvesting. Please contact us to provide details on your project so that we may provide a quote.

Where can I get more information about the PCC110 & PCC210 chips?
Information regarding the PCC110 & PCC210 chips is available after the completion of a Reference Design Confidentiality Agreement.

Power Questions

How much power can be transmitted?
In the United States and Canada, the maximum amount of power that can be transmitted is 4 Watts EIRP. Our TX91501 transmitter broadcasts approximately 3 Watts EIRP.

How much power is received?
The received power is determined by several factors, including distance and receiving antenna performance. Available energy after conversion in the low milliwatt (mW) and microwatt (uW) range should be expected. Please see the wireless power calculator.

What is the efficiency of the power transmission?
Powercast’s technology enables unique applications for remote charging, and multiple devices can be charged simultaneously. The end-to-end efficiency of power transfer is not a relevant metric of comparison.

What is the efficiency of the RF to DC power conversion?
RF-to-DC conversion efficiency is as high as 70% in some scenarios. Please see the datasheets found on the documentation page for performance graphs.

What is the maximum distance that your transmitter will work?
The transmitter output power is limited by government regulations, so the receiving antenna is a primary factor in operating range. Antennas with higher gain provide a better range. The directional antenna provided with the evaluation boards has a gain of 6dBi and will enable a range of 40-45 feet (12-14 meters) line of sight with the P2110B component. Our P21XXCSR-EVB Chipset Reference Design Evaluation Board has newer designs that enable greater sensitivity and range.

Radio Frequency Questions

What frequencies are supported?
The P1110 and P2110B Powerharvester receivers are designed for a center frequency of 915 MHz, but have a reasonable operating range from 850-950 MHz. The P21XXCSR-EVB supports GSM-850 uplink, Europe RFID & GSM-850 downlink, ISM USA & GSM-900 uplink, GSM-1800 uplink, GSM-1900 uplink, and Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz frequency bands. Please see the datasheets found on the documentation page for performance details. The Powerharvester technology can be adapted to other frequencies and Powercast does custom development projects for frequency modification. Please contact us to discuss custom projects for frequency modification.

Can I use the P1110 or P2110B components for harvesting from WiFi?
These components are designed with a center frequency of 915 MHz and therefore, can not be used to harvest energy from Wi-Fi routers. Although these components can not be used to harvest Wi-Fi our P21XXCSR-EVB Chipset Reference Evaluation Board does support harvesting Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz.

Do you have any components for harvesting from 2.4GHz / Wi-Fi?
Currently, the P21XXCSR-EVB Chipset Reference Evaluation Board supports harvesting Wi-FI 2.4 GHz frequency. However, standard modules for harvesting 2.4 GHz are not offered at this time. Please contact us about using the PCC110 & PCC210 chips for harvesting Wi-Fi.

Antenna Questions

What type of antennas can be used?
Powerharvester receivers are designed to work with standard 50-ohm antennas. An antenna should be matched as closely as possible to the frequency being received.

Does Powercast design custom antennas?
Powercast has antenna design expertise. Please contact us to discuss customer antenna development projects.

Transmitter Questions

Can I make any adjustments to your transmitter?
There are no user controls on the existing TX91501 Powercaster transmitter. Making modifications inside of the device would be a violation of FCC and Industry Canada regulations and also void the product warranty.

Is your transmitter required for this to work?
Powercast’s transmitter products are not required to operate the Powerharvester receivers, but some source of RF energy must be provided.  Ambient energy from sources such as mobile base stations (i.e. cell sites) are typically not strong enough to operate existing Powerharvester receivers at a useful distance, but may apply in some scenarios.  Harvesting from a mobile phone is typically more viable than harvesting from a mobile base station.

Can I use your transmitter in any country?
Powercast’s TX91501 transmitters are certified for use only in the United States and Canada, other countries have different frequency requirements and power limitations. Some countries allow for demonstration or experimental use without regulatory certification.

What modulation can be used to operate the Powerharvester receivers?
The Powerharvester recievers work independent of the type of modulation use (FHSS, DSSS, etc) by a transmitter, and can receive power from one or more transmitters using any type of modulations.  The power of the signal is the primary metric for operation.

How does your transmitter send data?
The Powercast TX91501 transmitter broadcasts data as well as power. The data is currently a transmitter ID implemented using 8 bits. Future versions may include a timing broadcast for network synchronization. The data is sent using Amplitude Shift Keying (ASK) modulation and is recovered through the Powerharvester receiver in conjunction with external circuitry and a microcontroller. The data is factory-set and not user adjustable.

Will your transmitter interfere with other RF devices (Cell Phones, Wi-Fi routers, etc.)?
All devices that generate RF frequencies have the potential to interfere with other RF devices. The interference potential is dependent on numerous factors including the field strength of the unwanted signal, the frequency band of operation, and the ability of the receiver to reject the unwanted signal. The TX91501 Powercaster Transmitter is FCC approved as FCC ID: YESTX91501 and Industry Canada (IC) approved as IC: 8985A-TX91501. The 915MHz output power is approximately 0.5W (3W EIRP) and uses Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) to spread the power over more than 500kHz as required by the FCC and IC. The Powercast DSSS signal allows devices to more easily reject the Powercast signal. Powercast has done empirical testing with mobile phones, Wi-Fi devices, and 915MHz transceivers and found no degradation in device performance at practical separation distances.

How much power does your transmitter use?
The 3W version of the TX91501 transmitter draws about 1.5W of energy from a wall outlet, which is less energy than a typical night-light. It would take 40 transmitters to have the same total power as a single 60W light bulb.

Technology Questions

Is Powercast technology patented?
Yes. Powercast technology is covered by numerous patents.

Is Powercast technology safe?
Powercast technology is approved for use in the United States and Canada.  Our technology is based on radio waves that are also generated by many commonly used, devices, including mobile phones, cordless phones, wireless sensors, security systems, etc. RF energy declines as the inverse square of the distance from the transmitter, meaning it declines rapidly. A typical mobile phone user will receive far more RF energy from their own mobile phone than they will from a properly installed Powercast transmitter.

Can Powercast technology transmit power through walls or other obstructions?
Radio waves pass through many types of materials, including walls. Walls and obstructions attenuate (or absorb) radio waves, and this will reduce the amount of energy available for reception. Radio waves reflect off of metal walls which greatly reduces or prohibits power transfer.

How does Powercast technology compare to induction-based charging solutions?
Typical induction charging solutions like charging pads and electric toothbrushes require that the power source and receiving device be in very close proximity to one another to transfer power efficiently, usually within millimeters, and is essentially zero distance. These types of solutions typically require special alignment and charging cradles. Powercast’s RF-based technology provides power-over-distance to one or more devices for low-power applications and does not directly compete with induction-based charging technologies.

Powercast to Demonstrate RF-Powered, Battery-Free Wireless Sensor Module at Sensors Expo

Press Release

Powercast to Demonstrate RF-Powered, Battery-Free Wireless Sensor Module at Sensors Expo 2010

Wireless Sensor Module, jointly developed by Powercast and Microchip Technology, showcases RF energy harvesting and low power processing and communications.

Pittsburgh, PA — June 7, 2010 — Powercast Corporation, a technology leader in the field of RF-based wireless power and energy harvesting, will participate as an exhibitor at the Sensors Expo & Conference on June 7-9, 2010 . At the event, Powercast will be demonstrating a battery-free wireless sensor module powered by RF energy and designed for extremely low power consumption. The sensor module provides temperature, light level, and humidity data to an access point, along with the received signal strength (RSSI) and the ID number of the Powercaster™ transmitter from which it is receiving power.

Powercast recently released the P1110 and P2110 Powerharvester™ Receivers, which are capable of converting radio waves in the range of 850-950 MHz into DC power. The demonstration sensor module uses the P2110 Powerharvester receiver to store the received energy into a capacitor, and then performs a voltage boost to supply the module components with a regulated voltage. Both the P1110 and P2110 enable a microcontroller to determine the signal strength of the received power, as well as to recover low-rate data encoded in the power broadcasted from the power transmitter.

Microchip Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MCHP), a leading supplier of low power MCUs, provided software and hardware development support for both the sensor module and the access point. The devices use PIC® microcontrollers featuring XLP eXtreme Low Power technology, and the MRF24J40MA agency-certified IEEE 802.15.4™ radio module, resulting in high-performance, low power processing and communications. Microchip’s MiWi™ P2P protocol provides the reliable, short-duration messaging required for the optimal performance of the harvesting system.

“We see great potential in the use of energy harvesting to power a growing network of low-power wireless devices,” said Jason Tollefson, a product marketing manager at Microchip. “The sensor module developed with Powercast, using Microchip’s XLP technology, is a unique and powerful demonstration of using radio waves as an on-demand source of energy for a battery-free wireless sensor.”

Harry Ostaffe, Director of Marketing and Business Development for Powercast, will also be delivering two presentations during the event. During the pre-conference symposium on June 7, 2010, he will speak on “Design Techniques for RF Energy Harvesting Devices.” During the main conference on June 8, 2010, he will also present “Power Out of Thin Air: Ambient RF Energy Harvesting for Wireless Sensors.”

Powercast’s exhibit and wireless sensor demonstration will be located at Booth 1022 in the exhibition hall.

About Powercast (www.www.powercastco.com)
Powercast Corporation is a leading innovator of RF energy harvesting and wireless power technology. Founded in 2003, Powercast’s proprietary core technology and related intellectual property pioneered the model for completely untethered electronic devices by transmitting and harvesting common radio waves similar to those in wireless communications. Powercast’s technologies eliminate or reduce the need for batteries, extend sensor networks into hard-to-service locations, and enable greater system efficiency in applications such as building automation and energy management.

About Microchip (www.microchip.com)
Microchip Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MCHP) provides low-risk product development, lower total system cost and faster time to market for thousands of eXtreme Low Power applications. From low power Analog, RF and Memory devices, to more than 75 PIC® Microcontrollers featuring XLP Technology and peripherals like LCD and USB, as well as over 600 more that offer integration such as Ethernet, Graphics and Capacitive Touch Sensing, our devices along with our free software and tools, provide a custom fit in your energy harvesting design.

Note: The Microchip name and logo, and PIC are registered trademarks of Microchip Technology Inc. in the USA and other countries. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective companies.


Harry Ostaffe
Director, Marketing & Business Development
+1 412-923-4774