The smartphones of the future are without batteries.
That’s basically what engineers from the University of Washington had established after inventing a cellphone that requires no batteries at all. It looks like we have to say goodbye to chargers, cords, and dying phones anytime soon.
Instead of batteries, the mobile phone they created is powered by radio waves and its owner’s own voice. That’s enough microwatts – about two to three – to power the device and even make calls when within range of a base station.
Shyam Gollakota, a co-author of the paper and associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the UW, believes that this is the first functioning cellphone that “consumes almost zero power.”
‘To achieve the really, really low power consumption that you need to run a phone by harvesting energy from the environment, we had to fundamentally rethink how these devices are designed,” he added.
Computer scientists and electrical engineers teamed up to invent the device. They found a way to eliminate the usual problem when it comes to cellphones consuming power: converting analog signals that convey sound into digital data that a phone can understand.
They were able to take advantage of tiny vibrations in a phone’s microphone or speaker that occur when a person is talking into a phone or listening to a call.
In this cell phone, they connected an antenna to the mentioned components which convert the motion into changes in standard analog radio signal emitted by a cellular base station.
But so far, this mobile phone can only make and receive signals one at a time. For that, its user should hold down a button to speak to the recipient and release it to wait for a reply, just like when using a walkie-talkie.
At times that there is not enough power for a speaker, the user can listen calls using a headphone.
For now the device only has 0-9 number keys, and the * and # buttons. There are also two action buttons for placing calls.
“The cellphone is the device we depend on most today. So if there were one device you’d want to be able to use without batteries, it is the cellphone,” said faculty lead Joshua Smith, professor in both the Allen School and UW’s Department of Electrical Engineering.
“The proof of concept we’ve developed is exciting today, and we think it could impact everyday devices in the future,” he added.