A team from the Duke University have discovered a technology that can turn microwave signals into an electrical signal. They claim it is as efficient as solar panels.
The device that the team produced used metamaterials, which are able to capture different types of wave energy and convert them for other uses. These are artificial materials that display properties not normally seen in nature.
“We’re showing… these materials can be useful for consumer applications,” said engineering student Alexander Katko.
The researchers successfully converted microwaves into 7.3 volts of electricity by using fibreflass and copper conductors on a circuit board. At this voltage it would be possible to charge a mobile phone or camera.
“We were aiming for the highest energy efficiency we could achieve,” said team member Allen Hawkes.
“We had been getting energy efficiency around 6-10%, but with this design we were able to dramatically improve energy conversion to 37%, which is comparable to what is achieved in solar cells.”
US researchers think that in the future satellite, sound and wi-fi signals could also be “harvested”.
However, Katko and Hawkes along with their colleagues, hope to see this technology incorporated into mobile phones. This will mean that a phone can charge wirelessly when it is not in use.
“Our work demonstrates a simple and inexpensive approach to electromagnetic power harvesting,” said Mr Cummer.
“The beauty of the design is that the basic building blocks are self-contained and additive. One can simply assemble more blocks to increase the scavenged power.”
[Image via Duke University]