Wireless networks composed of energy harvesting devices will introduce several transformative changes in wireless networking as we know it: energy self-sufficient, energy self-sustaining, perpetual operation; reduced use of conventional energy and accompanying carbon footprint; untethered mobility; and an ability to deploy wireless networks in hard-to-reach places such as remote rural areas, within structures, and within the human body. Energy harvesting brings new dimensions to the wirelesscommunication problem in the form of intermittency and randomness of available energy, which necessitates a fresh look at wireless communication protocols at the physical, medium access, and networking layers. Scheduling and optimization aspects of energy harvesting communications in the medium access and networking layers have been relatively wellunderstood and surveyed in the recent paper .
This branch of literature takes a physical layer rate-power relationship that is valid in energy harvesting conditions under large-enough batteries and long-enough durations between energy harvests so that information-theoretic asymptotes are achieved, and optimizes the transmit power over time in order to maximize the throughput. Another branch of recent literature aims to understand the fundamental capacity limits, i.e. information-theoretic capacities, of energy harvesting links under smaller scale dynamics, considering energy harvests at the channel use level. This branch necessitates a deeper look at the coding and transmission schemes in the physical layer, and ultimately aims to develop an information theory of energy harvesting communications, akin to Shannon’s development of an information theory for average power constrained communications. In this introductory article, we survey recent results in this branch and point to open problems that could be of interest to a broad set of researchers in the fields of communication theory, information theory, signal processing, and netw- rking. In particular, we review capacities of energy harvesting links with infinite-sized, finitesized, and no batteries at the transmitter.