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Cell phone can literally power itself up from thin air

The researchers up at the University of Washington in Seattle have developed something that has a whole lot of future potential. Developed after years of research and study, they’ve developed a prototype cell phone that can draw power from thin air and, theoretically, function properly even with the internal battery drained out.

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Vamsi Talla, a research associate at the lab of Joshua Smith – who is a computer science and electrical engineer at Univ of Washington – is the mind behind this invention. It took him years to rethink how we could replace the battery. The only possible alternative is the surroundings of the phone, which include the environment in general.

So, he devised a technology that could convert light into an energy source through the use of photodiodes and miniature solar panels. Combined with the energy from TV and radio antennas, a hybrid system resulted in the production of 10 microwatts of energy, which is currently inadequate to power up a traditional cell phone.

In order to make communication possible in this new prototype, Smith’s lab actually worked on creating a ‘backscatter’, which reflects radio signals to create network frequency in a device with the least amount of power consumption possible. But, even that’s not enough to run the device to its full potential.

With no scope of a touchscreen, this prototype cell phone sports a touch sensitive number pad and a tiny red LED that glows when a number is pressed. This design is based on the notion that the power derived from ‘air’ will only make it possible for the user to make calls and send messages.

The problems are evident: the consumption is still too much compared to what can be generated. There is a long way to go and, while not in the near future, there is a huge possibility that we might be able to see such a device in the coming decade. There will be a time when you wouldn’t have to worry about leaving your power bank at home.

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