A team of computer scientists and electrical engineers at the University of Washington have created what sounds almost impossible: a phone that works without a battery. The device can make as well as receive calls by using only a few microwatts of power, which it gets from light or ambient radio signals. The team has demonstrated this by making a Skype call with the prototype, showing that it can receive and transmit speech as well as communicate with a base station.
Professor Shyam Gollakota, who is part of the research team at the University of Washington, said he thinks that they have created the first cell phone that requires almost zero power. He also added, “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.”
They did this by basically eliminating a power-hungry step in most modern cellular transmissions, which is converting analog signals that convey sound into digital data that a phone can understand. Instead, the device takes 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 order to transmit speech, the battery-free phone uses vibrations from the device’s microphone to encode speech patterns in the reflected signals. To receive speech, it converts encoded radio signals into sound vibrations that are picked up by the phone’s speaker. The only problem is that the user actually has to press a button to switch between the two modes — transmitting and receiving. Check out the short video below to find out more.
The prototype is made from off-the-shelf components and uses the power harvested from ambient light with a tiny solar cell, which is roughly the size of a grain of rice. It can also communicate with a base station that is 50 feet away.
Before you get too excited, keep in mind that this is just a prototype.One more thing worth pointing out is that although the device can perform basic tasks such as receiving and making calls with almost zero power, this is far from a smartphone. Still, it’s pretty cool and we thought it was worth sharing.
What do you think about the new technology? Let us know down below.