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June 10, 2009

UPDATE: Ambient power

GLOBAL – The folks at Nokia Research Centre have come up with a new source of power for mobile devices – ambient radio waves. Using the electromagnetic radiation emitted from WiFi transmitters, mobile phone antennas, TV masts and the like, the team are already harvesting 3-5 milliwatts using current prototypes test circuits. [UPDATE 11jun09: Sorry folks, these are research test set-ups not product protos. Changed the word so as not to perpetuate the confusion in the original article. – CS]. The target is to hit 50 milliwatts, which would be enough to (eventually) re-juice a phone that is switched off.

Reported in the MIT Technology Review, NRC researcher Markku Rouvala talks about how the system works. Basically it’s based on the same idea as an RFID tag, converting electromagnetic waves into an electrical signal. The focus of the research team’s work is on increasing the range of frequencies that can be harvested. By focusing on everything from 500 megahertz to 10 gigahertz they expect to increase the chances of getting enough juice.

MIT Technology review highlights that such technologies have only previously been found in very niche applications. If successful, and deployed, this could be one of the first consumer applications. However, it is early stages and the challenge to the NRC team is a big one, with many believing it hugely difficult, or impossible.

I reckon if it’s possible, then it’d be something pretty spectacular. The notion that you could just put your phone down and it’d be charging itself would be pretty awesome. What do you think?


[UPDATE 11jun09 – There’s been a gross misunderstanding that this tech will soon be going into a phone or what not. Folks, this is just a research project and not a product program and there is no indication that there is or is not coming into a future product (we wouldn’t really tell you anyway). Keep in mind that we do a ton of research to explore potential new tech. This is one of them. – CS]