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Sucking energy from the electromagnetic spectrum

T

twilyth

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#1
Imagine if you will, a world where small electronic devices can pull power out of thin air - using only the electromagnetic radiation that passes through us every day.

One group of researchers seem to have developed something that does exactly that. And the antenna they use is printed on an inkjet printer using a special ink.



What’s the News: With all of the electronics cluttering our daily lives, the air is abuzz with ambient electromagnetic energy from sources like cell phone networks, radio and television transmitters, and satellite communications systems. Now, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have devised a simple, cheap way to harness that wasted energy: capturing it with inkjet-printed antennas and storing it in batteries.

How the Heck:

Electrical engineer Manos Tentzeris and his team created an ink mixture containing nanoparticles of silver, which, as a conductor, is useful for building circuits. Using an inkjet printer, they printed radio frequency components and circuits onto paper and flexible plastic.

The printed antennas receive a wide range of frequencies—100 MHz to 60 GHz (that is, all the way from FM radio to radar). The researchers installed the antennas in miniature devices that collect the energy, convert it to DC power, and store it in capacitors or batteries.

In a test, described at the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Symposium, the team’s “self-powered, wireless paper-based sensor” was able to run a temperature sensor by capturing energy from a television station a third of a mile away, according to a Georgia Tech news release. By absorbing multiple frequencies at once, the researchers expect to be able to power many small electronic devices, like microcontrollers, the tiny computers that control automated processes in cars.
 

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#2
"And by combining energy-scavenging technology with super-capacitors and cycled operation, the Georgia Tech team expects to power devices requiring above 50 milliwatts. In this approach, energy builds up in a battery-like supercapacitor and is utilized when the required power level is reached."

so what they are saying is that if things go well they will be able to save up enough power to power a 50 mW device for a short time, power it off again, then wait again until enough power is available? anyone see a number for how much power they were generating over extended periods of time?
 
T

twilyth

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#3
No, not in the article. I'm sure there's more info though - or will be soon.

You don't need continuous power for a lot of devices - sensors, dataloggers. Something that only turns on for 20ms every second can still be very useful.
 

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#4
found it

Scavenging experiments utilizing TV bands have already yielded power amounting to hundreds of microwatts, and multi-band systems are expected to generate one milliwatt or more.

100 uW = 0.0001 W
 

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#5
Finally, free electricity! Just like how Tesla envisioned a hundred years ago. /sarcasm

It might be very useful for small stuff, dataloggers in the middle of nowhere etc, but I think other than these "novel" uses it will be nothing more than fun and games.
 
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#6
I see this as useful for wrist watches. If this receiver part can be small enough to be fit in a wrist watch, you'd never ever have to worry about battery. I don't think quartz clock mechanism requires 50 miliwatts. I think it uses far less. This will be similar to mechanically powered quartz wrist watches that require movement to charge the battery/capacitor. Where with this one you'd not be bound to movement. Pretty cool. I'm sure Seiko or Citizen will pick this stuff quickly...
 

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#7
I see this as useful for wrist watches. If this receiver part can be small enough to be fit in a wrist watch, you'd never ever have to worry about battery. I don't think quartz clock mechanism requires 50 miliwatts. I think it uses far less. This will be similar to mechanically powered quartz wrist watches that require movement to charge the battery/capacitor. Where with this one you'd not be bound to movement. Pretty cool. I'm sure Seiko or Citizen will pick this stuff quickly...
Citizen have their Ecodrives which are basically solar powered, everyone has kinetic systems etcetc, unless this thing matures fast and requires much less surface area I don't see them adopting it. More likely on wall clocks.
 
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#9
Well you still need light and movement for these two. Which makes it problematic if you have more than 1 wrist watch and you change them now and then (depending on the dress you have, for example). I know automatic movement watches have problems because of this if they are not worn for 48 hours as their reserve spring charge runs out and that's not good.
Where in this case, it will charge itself regardless of where it is. On your wrist, in a closet, on a desk, even for weeks in each location, it doesn't matter. For the solar powered you can't place it in the closet or drawer, for movement charged you can't let them sit still for long. Plus the quartz motor doesn't require much power to operate. That's why i think it's a good idea for such application.

Other application would be TPMS (Tire Pressure Measurment System) systems in car tires where a sensor requires power but because of the spinning nature of the wheel you can't make a wired connection. Battery also doesn't last for long enough and there is not enough space to make a kinetic method of charging. Though it probably needs a bit more power than quartz clock motor...
 

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#10
Well you still need light and movement for these two.
Kinetic has about 48hr reserve, so that is pretty shite. But that said, very few people wear mechanical watches anymore, and most of them are expensive bling ones. However, solar powered watches have reserves up to probably a month or more, and living them outside your cupboard is enough to keep them running. Still not convinced about their widespread adoption.
 
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#11
So if they made one that was 10 layers thick instead and was more efficient, but they are already working on teslas idea. They had a TV powered from 6 feet or so wirelessly and it was safe for the speaker to stand between the emitter and TV and it didn't mess with his wireless headset either.
 
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#12
so, they could incorporate these antennas into fabric and we'd get usb charging t-shirts eventually. :D
 
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#13
Kinetic has about 48hr reserve, so that is pretty shite. But that said, very few people wear mechanical watches anymore, and most of them are expensive bling ones. However, solar powered watches have reserves up to probably a month or more, and living them outside your cupboard is enough to keep them running. Still not convinced about their widespread adoption.
I have a Seiko SKA366 which has an at-rest period of 4 years - meaning it can store enough charge to run for 4 years without movement.

I haven't worn that watch for over 6 months now and it's still going strong. Also, if you're wondering there is no auxiliary battery powering it.
 
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#14
If this possibly became (a lot) more efficient and widespread it would cause interference in EM waves that we're actually using (radio etc).
However it would be comical for a super version of the EM absorber to be used for signal/sensor jamming.
 
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#15
Kinetic has about 48hr reserve, so that is pretty shite. But that said, very few people wear mechanical watches anymore, and most of them are expensive bling ones. However, solar powered watches have reserves up to probably a month or more, and living them outside your cupboard is enough to keep them running. Still not convinced about their widespread adoption.
Not true. Real gearheads use mechanical watches because fully mechanic timepiece has "soul" and craftmanship that cheap anyone can make it quartz watches just don't have (even though the cheaper Automatics are assembled entirely by machines). And you don't have to dig in deep into your wallet to own one. Just look at japanese models like Seiko 5. They are fully mechanical and suprisingly accurate while still stylish and far from cheap plastic ones. Crystal glass, all stainless steel with automatic movement (self winding mechanical) and it'll cost you around 100 EUR, depending on where you buy it. Considering such watches can last even 20 years quite easily it's a bargain. And they tick beautifully. But still, they only have 48 hours spring reserve and when it runs out it runs out. You have to either own just one and wear it all the time or you need to buy winding device which occasionally winds the clock for you even though you're not wearing it. It's a trade off.

The reason i was pointing watches out is because they don't require much power to run and if they can get energy out of thin air, that sort of makes sense. It's just a question how long a quartz engine can run. Anyone has a very very really old quartz watch? And i don't consider 5 years to be much...
 
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#16
This isnt even new tech, wireless power transmission has been, being used for a while now, only the printed arial is actually new and im sure even that isnt that new:ohwell:
 

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#17
Not true. Real gearheads use mechanical watches because fully mechanic timepiece has "soul" and craftmanship that cheap anyone can make it quartz watches just don't have ...

... It's just a question how long a quartz engine can run. Anyone has a very very really old quartz watch? And i don't consider 5 years to be much...
I am using a Seiko 7S36 movement watch (powering Seiko 5 etc.), the only soul it has showed me is its inaccuracy and its temperament. I still wear it (even to sleep), because its a habit. I would be very happy if someone offer me a mechanical watch with tourbillion and a repeater for free though. :D

Quartz watches run for practically forever.
 
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#18
this sort of tech was shown possible afew years ago, you are never going to have free electric from big business. the only way you will see free electric is if we are lucky enough one day to have some guy tinkering in shed and accidently discovers a way to make electric and releases it on the web, after which every energy company will sue him for loss of profit, in the same way you will never see cures for cancer and aids (why sell 1 tablet when you could sell the same guy 25 tablets a day for life), rant over.
 
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#20
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#22
I think if we rub some pixie dust on this, then dip it in rocking-horse s#!t, and finally glaze it in powdered unicorn horn & snake oil, it MIGHT just become powerful enough to be useful.
 
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#24
You know you could probably make your own silver nano particle ink and beat them to the punch. I mean really all you're doing to dicking around in photoshop with shapes that feel right given a rudimentary knowledge of antenna design. Then printing it, testing it, then on to the next one. You could go through 50+ shapes a day if you so desired. They even show you a few of their designs so you have a starting point.
 
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#25
Sounds like the quasi-crystal all over again...