New invention captures wasted cell phone energy, feeds it back to battery

smartphones charging
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Risager

Smartphones help us connect to others throughout the day and the apps help us plant gardens, bird watch and more, but with all of that use comes a lot of necessary charging to keep the battery going. Battery life has gotten better in newer models, but there's still room for improvement, not to mention that it would be great if that energy could be coming from a renewable source.

Tackling that challenge, researchers at The Ohio State University have developed a technology that makes cell phone batteries last up to 30 percent longer on a single charge by capturing wasted energy from the radio signals emitted from the phone and feeding it back to the battery.

The technology works by using circuitry to convert some of the radio signals from a phone into direct current (DC) power and using it to charge the phone's battery. It's estimated that nearly 97 percent of cell phone signals never reach a destination and are simply lost, but with this technology some of that can be recaptured and used for keeping cell phone's going without needing to be plugged in.

“When we communicate with a cell tower or Wi-Fi router, so much energy goes to waste,” explained Chi-Chih Chen, research associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We recycle some of that wasted energy back into the battery.”

Researchers say the tech could be built right in to a phone's case without adding noticeable weight or thickness though for now they are working on embedding it into a skin that could be applied to a phone's exterior.

Radio waves are actually just a high frequency type of alternating current (AC), which is the type of electricity in our power grids, but devices need DC power to operate. The technology converts the radio signals from AC to DC much like the little boxes attached to our charger cables do for charging our gadgets.

The technology was made to capture the maximum amount of radio signals without compromising the function or clarity of phone transmissions. It only works when doing things like making calls, sending texts or sending emails, where radio signals are transmitting, not if you're using an offline app or game.

If the researchers can get a major phone maker to work with them, having this type of technology in our phones could go a long way toward cutting down on our phone's energy consumption and give our chargers a break.

New invention captures wasted cell phone energy, feeds it back to battery
The tech could make our smartphone batteries last 30 percent longer before needing a recharge.

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