Scientific Innovation for Energy Harvesting Technology

Strategic Objects

Elucidation of basic principles for innovative energy conversion, and synthesis of new materials, development of new energy harvesting devices, and other core technologies, that will contribute to the high-efficiency conversion of ambient microenergy into electricity and their new advanced applications

Research Supervisor

photo: Kenji Taniguchi
Kenji Taniguchi(Emeritus Professor, Osaka University)

Deputy Research Supervisor

photo: Hiroyuki Akinaga
Hiroyuki Akinaga(Principal Research Manager, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST))


The aim of this Research Area is to create innovative core technologies for converting heat, light, vibration, electromagnetic field, biological body, and other types of ambient microenergy into electricity in the range of μW~mW for use in self-powered sensors, microprocessors, and other types of devices.
 More specifically, research will be promoted along two principal lines. One will focus on the development of core technologies and their underlying basic principles, for the highly efficient conversion of ambient microenergy produced from heat, light, vibration, electromagnetic, biological body, and other forms of energy sources. This is research that will develop substances and devices to convert untapped microenergy into electricity based on the new principles. It will be the challenge of discovering new principles contributing to innovative energy conversion such as that utilizing spin correlations or topological correlated phases and developing new materials with physical properties far surpassing the characteristics of substances to date. The other principal line of research will be on theories, analytical evaluation, and material design for developing the core technologies mentioned above. This research will attempt to develop new analytic formulations for the physical phenomena (properties of materials and interfaces, transport phenomena, etc.) that come into play in energy conversion, and will put forth guidelines for new-material design based on condensed matter physics or applying computer simulation. It is extremely important to pursue these two principal lines of research in closely collaborative and mutually complementary ways.
Accordingly, this Research Area calls for highly challenging proposals, which pursue to produce innovative principles, substances and devices to be tested and verified in their final stages, and which will lead to follow-on research and development stages.
 This Research Area, therefore, will be an integrated CREST/PRESTO where work will be pursued under the strong leadership of the Research Supervisor and Deputy Research Supervisor, and efforts will be made to reorganize research teams, coordinate research programs, and promote strong communication among researchers pursuing different themes, all for the maximization of research achievements.

Research Supervisor’s Policy on Call for Application, Selection, and Management of the Research Area

Background and Basic Directions

In the advanced information-oriented society of the future, energy supplies for wireless nodes and sensors, the numbers of which will grow to an enormous scale, will be critical. Therefore, how to secure electric energy will be a key concern, for example, in relation to power supplies and battery, etc. If it becomes possible to use ubiquitous untapped energy as power sources, the concept of a “power source” will change because of qualitative differences in the use of these new power sources.
In order to realize such a society, work in this Research Area will endeavor to develop core technologies for the highly efficient conversion of untapped microenergy into electricity and for their advanced application. Success will require the development of energy conversion principles based on novel concepts and ideas, and it will be necessary to progress existing principles, substances, and devices that are yet in their embryonic stages. In order to promote the research mentioned above, this Research Area will receive proposals from a wide array of research fields. Points that should be borne in mind regarding research proposals and Research Area management are given below.

Targeted Research Fields and Research Approaches

Research on energy harvesting to date has been focusing on technologies for the conversion of particular forms of energy, such as heat, light, vibration, or electromagnetic fields, into electric energy. The advanced information-oriented society, however, requires innovative technologies to generate electricity for power sources. Phononics, photonics, and two areas in which there have been particularly noteworthy recent advances—spintronics and multiferroics—are all fields in which Japan has a competitive advantage on the global research stage, and all of these fields would offer exciting new physical properties for application in innovative energy harvesting technology.
We actively solicit original, ambitious proposals for electric energy conversion methodologies based on new ideas and perspectives from ongoing advanced research. We particularly welcome proposals addressing physical properties not previously considered in energy conversion, which surpass the bounds of our typical considerations. Of course, there is no intent to discourage proposals for research on conventional energy harvesting technology. Such proposals, however, should not be for work representing a mere extension of existing research, and which is hence predictable in terms of its results.

In other words, selection will heavily depend in all cases on whether outstanding characteristics of the technology are clearly shown and whether there are significant increases in power generation.

For material research, trial-and-error experiments should be avoided from a long-term perspective. It is necessary to show within the research period that the research strategy is scientifically valid, i.e., based on physics, computer simulations, or other evidence, before embarking on the actual search for substances or materials design. To accomplish this, researchers submitting proposals must clearly present their own original ideas. In doing so, they must pursue a universal principle that is not limited to particular substances and create a model to represent such principle. Of course, there is no intent to reject serendipity in the research process; indeed, this Research Area is characterized by difficulty in setting clear milestones. However, the solid bases for new physical properties to be manifested or substances to be discovered should be made clear. It is expected that efforts will then be focused on commercialization after elaborate scientific research on achieving their high performance or realizing new functionality

※ CREST and PRESTO programs will not in this fiscal year be soliciting proposals on storage battery technology, electric energy generation technology based on artificial photosynthesis, and new devices for implantation in the living body.
※ The CREST program will not solicit team proposals for conducting research only on theories, analytical evaluation, and material design described in the research area overview.
※ The CREST program will seek proposals including not only the creation of new principles or materials but also pathways to developing new devices in the future.
※ In addition to innovative, challenging proposals from various technology fields, we actively encourage proposals for electric energy generation technology in the following fields.

CREST: piezoelectric, radio wave, and thermoelectric using organic material (flexible material)
PRESTO : vibration, piezoelectric, and radio wave

Research Period and Research Expenses

The research period for this Research Area started in fiscal 2015 and tentatively extends through fiscal 2022. Management of the Research Area will be divided into two research phases. The first will be a time for creating core technologies to convert untapped microenergy into electricity. The second phase will be a time for selecting promising core technologies developed in the first phase and finding new applications for them.
Based on the above, research proposals for the current fiscal year will be solicited as described below. Research periods for CREST projects will begin in fiscal 2016 and end by fiscal 2019 (four fiscal years). This differs from existing practice. Research expenses will be up to 160 million yen (total expense). Research periods for PRESTO projects will begin in fiscal 2016 and end by fiscal 2019 (four fiscal years). Research expenses will be up to 40 million yen (total expense).
For both CREST and PRESTO projects, specifically in the final fiscal year of each project, research progress will be evaluated based on monitoring throughout the research period. The progress evaluation will be performed addressing the practical value of the research achievements with an eye to future commercialization. As a result of the evaluation, certain research projects will be restructured to maximize achievements in the second phase. This work will take place as a collaborative effort of the research teams and researchers in the Research Area (for both the CREST and PRESTO programs), who will form a mutually complementary new team covering different fields. Work will focus on resolving problems, considering the research results achieved to date and future potential. This reconstruction-based research will be conducted under the responsibility of the Research Supervisor and Deputy Research Supervisor.

* Please develop an efficient research expense plan through active utilization of shared research facilities in Japan

Points to be noted in research proposal preparation

In the “Future Prospect of Research” section of the proposal form, be sure to provide a scenario clearly describing what actions will be required during the research phase immediately after the end of the research period in order to advance the work described in the proposal to the development stage of targeting commercialization. Assume that the objectives of the proposed research will have been achieved during the research period.

Overview of Selection for Fiscal Year 2015 (excerpt)

Research proposal solicitation began for this research area in fiscal year 2015. Research proposals were solicited for creating basic technologies for the conversion (energy harvesting) of untapped ambient micro energy to electricity in the range of µW to mW for sensors and information processing devices.
In the near future, society will utilize very diverse, big data on networks obtained by using a massive number of environmental sensors. That future society will need handy sensors (requiring neither electrical wires nor battery charges) powered with new forms of energy, including heat, light, vibrations, microwaves, and living bodies. Proposals were solicited that would create new scientific principles, new materials, new devices, or new analytical techniques for the conversion of the various energy forms to electricity. These included proposals addressing the underlying basic theories of this conversion.
Applications for energy harvesting grants were received from various technological areas (41 for CREST and 72 for PRESTO). A fair and strict document screening was performed by 10 advisors, who were chosen from pertinent scientific areas and who were mostly experts in the academic and industrial sectors. The advisors chose 14 CREST proposals and 24 PRESTO proposals for interviews.

In the interviews, the proposals were evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:
(1) A proposal in the research area of conventional energy harvesting should be expected to yield a result that is not simply an extension of past research but clearly presents a pathway to improved efficiency of energy conversion to electricity.
(2) A proposal in a new research area should add new ideas and perspectives to research results based on theories and experiments and should be expected to yield a breakthrough in the method of energy conversion to electricity.

As this is a combined research area for CREST and PRESTO, it was important that the research teams and researchers mutually cooperate, aiming for the integration of different areas and complementary collaboration. Therefore, the following viewpoints were also considered important:
(3) The research proposal should produce synergistic effects among research groups in the proposed research allotment system. In the interview, the representative must be able to discuss this synergy.
In contrast, for PRESTO,
(4) The research proposal must have the future potential to be a technological seed for CREST. In the interview, the representative must be able to discuss these future opportunities.

In the end, seven proposals for CREST and nine for PRESTO were chosen in the area of energy harvesting based on correlated electronics and spintronics in research stage, in addition to utilizing conventional heat and vibration.

There were many world class studies and challenging proposals among the submitted research proposals that did not reach the interview. However, these proposals were not chosen since they did not adequately explain pathways to the future creation of new devices beyond the creation of new principles or new materials, methods to solve issues in research and development, or clear advantages of the proposed technologies, which were a stated requirement for the proposals in the research overview. It is hoped that they will be corrected to meet these requirements and submitted for application in the next round

Research Area Advisors

・Toshiaki Aoai
Adviser, FUJIFILM Corporation

・Hideo Ohno
Professor, Director, Research Indtitute of Electrical Communication Tohoku University

・Eiji Saitoh
Professor, WPI-AIMR, Institute for Materials Research Tohoku University

・Naoki Shinohara
Professor, Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere Kyoto University

・Kenji Shiraishi
Professor, Institute of Materials and Systems for Sustainability Nagoya University

・Mariko Takayanagi
Senior Manager, Technical Marketing Div. Toshiba Corporation Storage & Electronic Devices Solutions Company

・Hiroyuki Fujita
Professor, Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Micro/Nano Methods, Institute of Industrial Science The University of Tokyo

・Hiroshi Funakubo
Professor, School of Materials and Chemical Technology, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology

・Kenjiro Miyano
Fellow, National Institute for Materials Science

・Yuka Yamada
Senior Planning Manager, Research and Innovation Promotion Headquarters National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

・Keiji Takeuchi
Senior Manager, Socio & Eco Strategic Consulting Unit NTT Data Institute of Management Consulting, Inc.

Year Started : 2015

Development of modulation-doped bulk-nanostructured high-efficiency thermoelectric silicon

Research Director:
Ken Kurosaki(Associate Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka University)

New Group-IV Thermoelectric Materials for Self-powered Multifunctional Sensors

Research Director:
Masashi Kurosawa(Designated Lecturer, Institute of Materials and Systems for Sustainability, Nagoya University)

Polymer-based Vibration Energy Harvesting Technology Using Flexible 3D Microstructures

Research Director:
Takaaki Suzuki(Associate Professor, Division of Mechanical Science and Technology, Graduate School of Science and Technology, Gunma University)

Creation of thermal phononics and its application to thermoelectrics

Research Director:
Masahiro Nomura(Associate Professor, Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Micro/Nano Methods, Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo)

Research on thermoelectrics/spinelectrics in topological semimetals

Research Director:
Jun Fujioka(Lecturer, School of Engineering, The Universitu of Tokyo)

Engineering of semiconducting carbon nanotube network for highly durable and efficient thermoelectric conversion

Research Director:
Tsuyohiko Fujigaya(Associate Professor, Department of Applied Chemistry, Graduate School of Engineering, Kyushu University)

Spin-current-driven thermoelectric conversion of 5d oxides

Research Director:
Jobu Matsuno(Senior Research Scientist, Advanced Device Laboratory, RIKEN)

Study of novel fine structures and materials toward Spin Seebeck power generation enhancement

Research Director:
Hiromi Yuasa(Professor, Graduate School and Faculty of Information and Science and Electrical Engineering, Kyushu University)

Visualization of the atomic structure and the nanoscale temperature distribution in thermoelectric nanomaterials

Research Director:
Hideto Yoshida(Associate Professor, The Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, Osaka University)

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