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Battery-free Cellphone unveiled by University of Washington Researchers

Jul 6, 2017, 9:29 am

We all face the common issue of our cellphones running out of power during urgencies. Dozens of inventive charging technologies across the world are being worked up to enhance battery power solutions. But what if we could get rid of using batteries for cellphones instead? A group of researches of the University of Washington is going forward with this approach, resulting in unveiling battery-free cellphone.

The battery-free cellphone of the group is able to use energy from ambient light and radio waves, according to a recent paper published. The current model is in the prototype stage as of yet. But the group has already found a way to convert analog sound signals into digital signals, which can be processed by a cellphone. This was the biggest puzzle to sort out for the group to transform the technology into a reality.

Shyamnath Gollakota, one of the authors of the published paper, said in a UW press release that they have built “the first functioning cellphone that consumes almost zero power”. Gollakota works as an associate professor for the UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

He went on saying that they had to work from the ground up regarding the designs of the devices for making those savvy for low power consumption and to derive energy from the environment.

The following video demonstrates the device.

The phone was built by the usage of off-the-shelf computing components alongside a custom printed circuit board. The device runs on about 3.5 microwatts. This can be derived from either a tiny solar cell or radio waves sent out by a custom-built base station. The solar cell would be about the size of a grain of rice and would be attached to the device.

So how does the phone work? When you are speaking into the phone, its antenna picks up vibrations of the microphone. These vibrations are then encoded in radio signals. Communication is received by phone via encoded radio signals, and it is then translated into vibrations of the speaker of the phone.

These operations consume very little power. This helps researchers to make calls through the base station. The base station can be integrated into existing cell service infrastructure for allowing users for wide usage.

The current prototype has a button for the user to press for supporting the movements between sending and receiving modes. The phone requires being within about 30 feet of the base station in order to operate. The group is working on improving these aspects of the device for the future.

The researchers previously came up with battery-free wireless communicators designed for the IoT devices.

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