Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered a way to capture and harness energy transmitted by radio and television transmitters, cellphone networks and satellite systems. A presentation on this energy scavenging technology was given July 6 at the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Symposium in Spokane, Washington.
The researchers say scavenging the ambient energy all around us could provide a new way to power networks of wireless sensors, microprocessors and communications chips. Manos Tentzeris, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and his team used inkjet printing technology to combine sensors, antennas and energy scavenging capabilities on paper or flexible polymers. Presently, the team’s scavenging technology can take advantage of frequencies from FM radio to radar, a range of 100 Mhz to 15 GHz or higher. The devices capture this energy, convert it from AC to DC, and then store it in capacitors and batteries.
“There is a large amount of electromagnetic energy all around us, but nobody has been able to tap into it,” said Manos Tentzeris, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We are using an ultra-wideband antenna that lets us exploit a variety of signals in different frequency ranges, giving us greatly increased power-gathering capability.”
The researchers have already successfully operated a temperature sensor using electromagnetic energy captured from a television station that was half a kilometer distant. They are preparing another demonstration in which a microprocessor-based microcontroller would be activated simply by holding it in the air.
The researchers believe that self-powered, wireless paper-based sensors will soon be widely available at very low cost and could be used for a variety of purposes.
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