Our world is shifting toward a dependence on the Internet of Things (IoT), with smart devices predicted to number in the hundreds of billions by 2020. While some engineers see enormous potential in saving energy, others are concerned about an oncoming environmental disaster.

 

Smart-connected devices are usually equipped with a battery. Engineers want to develop a more sustainable option.

Smart-connected devices are usually equipped with a battery. Engineers want to develop a more sustainable option.

 

Customers want faster, more powerful service, and their demands can only be met by more energy. There is also the issue of electronic waste—it is estimated that 53 million metric tons of e-waste was disposed worldwide in 2013.

For some, an industry that will require more solid waste and energy is not acceptable. That’s why a research team, headed by Professor Donald Lupo from Tampere University of Technology from Finland, decided to create something that would reduce the environmental impact of IoT devices.

The project is called the Printed, energy-Autonomous UniversaL platform, or PAUL, and it is designed for multifunctional wireless sensors and devices. The project is financed by Tekes, a Finnish funding agency for innovative designs.

The researchers intend to enhance the use of printed supercapacitors that are nontoxic and more environmentally friendly to dispose. These could power IoT devices, and with the completion of PAUL, they could improve the harvesting and storing of energy from renewable sources like light, radio waves and motion.

What PAUL Aims to Accomplish

With methods such as atomic layer deposition and printing, it is possible to create low-power, high-speed circuits that can be used for power management, data storage, computation and wireless communication.

PAUL intends to make these objects independent of external energy sources and able to sense, process and analyze information and transfer it by acceptable wireless protocols to the desired networks.

The researchers hope that the completion of this project will help future IoT devices be low in cost, easily deployable and truly sustainable.

Economic and User Feasibility

Creators of the project are confident that costs can be reduced since the devices do not require as high of a manufacturing temperature. They can also be placed on thin, flexible carriers that make them easy to install.

It was also found that by printing products instead of manufacturing them the conventional way, it is possible to reduce the use of chlorine trifluoride, a highly toxic and unstable chemical.

Researchers predict that PAUL can provide significant benefits in certain industrial applications like Finnish product development companies that are in packaging, smart identification and the sports and adventure sector. Visit Terek’s website to learn more about PAUL and other research initiatives.

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