Kansas State University engineers are helping Peregrine implement its idea of an energy-harvesting radio. This concept could be used to implement bridge structural integrity monitoring with wireless sensors since changing the batteries on hundreds of sensors on each bridge is not practical. Kansas State is developing the energy harvesting radios for Peregrine to be used in these types of applications.
Peregrine's UltraCMOS process leads itself well to very low power devices and K-State engineers are looking at the design challenges of a radio system. Although the prototype captures and stores light energy with solar cells, these energy-harvesting radios could be powered by a number of different ways, including by electrochemical, mechanical or thermal energy. Some of this research is a spin off of work done for NASA for use on Mars rovers and scouts.
This leads me to another interesting technology that has caused some buzz lately which is using microwaves to power devices. WiTricity promises to power devices and lights via inductive coupling like Tesla first demonstrated many years ago. However, no one has ever been able to find a method to implement it for widespread practical use. But MIT has recently developed new technology that might solve this problem and a couple of companies are trying to bring it to market. Here is one such company's videos that are very well done and demonstrate some of its uses. While I don't see this being very good for lighting purposes in the near future, I think the convenience of charging our wireless devices via this method could take off. You just place your cell phone, iPod or other device on the counter in the vicinity of the charging unit and it will always have enough juice to go when you are ready. Let us know what you think of this new approach and if you think it will ever catch on.