British startup company Drayson Technologies unveiled the Freevolt harvester, which looks to transform radio waves in the air into electricity.
The air is now saturated with radio waves now that Wi-Fi networks and mobile phones are everywhere. Drayson Technologies is looking to take advantage of that with the Freevolt, which could transform the radio waves in the air into small but still useful amounts of electricity that can then be used by electronic devices.
The Freevolt harvester is just as wide and long as a mobile phone, but it is only as thick as a credit card. The device, however, could possibly harvest energy from the air to power devices with low energy requirements such as beacons and sensors.
One pegged application of the Freevolt technology is on the Internet of Things, which is an idea where billions of various devices are all linked together. The Internet of Things, according to International Data Corp., could lead to a worldwide spending of about $1.7 trillion by the year 2020. Freevolt can harvest the electricity that will be used to power up certain components of the involved devices, such as sensors that can help users in locating things or for informing them that a certain task needs to be done.
According to Drayson Technologies chairman and CEO Paul Drayson, companies have been trying for years to draw out energy from cellular, Wi-Fi and broadcast networks.
"But it is difficult, because there is only a small amount of energy to harvest and achieving the right level of rectifying efficiency has been the issue," Drayson added.
As a solution to the issue, Drayson Technologies needed to develop a way to make the small drops of energy usable, without losing the energy in the process. The solution involved the development of a multi-band antenna that is able to harvest the energy from a broad spectrum of radio bands, the improvement of a component named a rectifier which transforms the energy into electric current, and the creation of an optimized power management system that makes sure that all spare energy is collected.
Drayson Technologies will allow companies to obtain a license to use the Freevolt technology. To demonstrate it, however, the company has developed the $85 CleanSpace device, which is able to take air quality measurements then transmits the data to the user's smartphone through a Bluetooth connection. The device will function continuously for three to five years, with the expiration not due to Freevolt but due to the wearing out of the device's sensor.
The company is hoping that Freevolt could, in the future, be used to power up smartwatches and activity trackers, addressing the major issue of needing to constantly recharge such devices.
While the technology can be packaged into smaller devices, it can also be expanded for bigger uses, such as being built into walls where it can collect energy.
"It's going to be really exciting to see what ideas people come up with," said Drayson.