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Researchers develop battery-free mobile phone which runs on solar power and radio signals

If having to constantly charge your phone is the bane of your life, developments from the University of Washington could be music to your ears.

Researchers at the university have been working on a battery-free mobile phone, consisting of simple components on a basic circuit board. The phone uses solar power and radio signals to make phone calls over Skype.

The protoype is capable of operating on just a few microwatts of power instead of relying on a traditional cell battery.

When within range of a base station, the protoype can pick up on modified radio waves that give it enough power to take calls.

The phone can also transmit signals to the station through a combination of reflecting those radio wave signals back and the electromagnetic pulses generated by the vibrations of the phone’s diaphragm when speaking into its microphone.

It sends a series of digital pulses to a receiver, which encodes it into a Skype call that can be placed to any number.

Because it is incapable of making and receiving signals at the same time, users must hold down a button to speak and release for a reply, like using a walkie-talkie. Without the power for a speaker, you must listen to calls using headphones.

While the phone’s reliance on the base stations means that a battery-free device remains some distance from being available to consumers, the project may hold significant implications for the development of phones requiring little or no charging.

These models could be particularly useful for people in the developing world or remote areas where power may be scarce.

“You could imagine in the future that all cell towers or Wi-Fi routers could come with our base station technology embedded in it,” co-author Vamsi Talla told the university. “If every house has a Wi-Fi router in it, you could get battery-free cellphone coverage everywhere.”

The team has already considered connecting an e-ink display, similar to those on a Kindle, powered by radio frequencies or solar receptors to provide a visual display.



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