Okay, not quite. But certainly free-er in the sense that it could let you make do with other’s energy scraps. What the heck am I talking about? (Don’t worry, sometimes I wonder too.) The point of this particular rambling is a new device that captures ambient electromagnetic energy to power small electronic devices. Some folks have recently found a way to tap into the energy transmitted by power sources like radio and television transmitters, cell phone networks, and satellite communication systems. This energy has become more and more pervasive as our devices have proliferated, and it now looks like we may be able to use the spill-over from all of this broadcast energy to power our device’s microprocessors and communications chips.
Manos Tentzeris, a professor at Georgia Tech, is leading the research and says, “There is a large amount of electromagnetic energy all around us, but nobody has been able to tap into it. We are using an ultra-wideband antenna that lets us exploit a variety of signals in different frequency ranges, giving us greatly increased power-gathering capability.”
And the coolness doesn’t stop there… Tentzeris and his fellow researches are using inkjet printers to combine sensors, antennas, etc. on paper or flexible polymers. The devices can capture energy, convert it from AC to DC, then store it in capacitors and batteries. They can so far take advantage of frequencies from FM radio to radar (100 MHz to 15 GHz or higher.) Once I can start printing this kind of thing, the price of the ink I keep having to put in my printer might start to seem worth it.
A presentation on this technology was given on July 6th, at the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Symposium in Spokane, Washington.
This was actually a fun few weeks in science… in other news, it turns out that Polar Bears are Irish.