The smartphone industry has come a long way since its inception. The features and functionalities of the modern day smartphones are quite impressive. However, the size of the display screen on the average smartphone has increased. As a result of this, many smartphones have less than spectacular battery life.
Smartphone manufacturers have attempted to solve this problem by increasing the size of the battery and improving the efficiency of the software that powers the phone. This works fine to a certain extent but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
In an effort to find a better solution to this problem, a group of researchers at the University of Washington believe that they can get better results by removing the battery. This may seem like an unrealistic solution. However, the group has already developed a battery-free phone which was built from off-the-shelf materials on a circuit board.
Professor Shyam Gollakota who is an Associate computer science and engineering professor stated that his team has already made Skype calls via the battery-free phone.
Professor Gollakota has also made the following statement: “To achieve the really, really low power consumption that you need to run a phone by harvesting energy from the environment, we had to fundamentally rethink how these devices are designed.”
The modern day cell phone functions by taking power from radio frequency signals sent from a close custom base station and through the use of photodiodes – a semiconductor diode which converts light into an electrical current.
One of the processes that consume the most energy in modern cellular transmissions is when the phone converts analog signals into digital data. The electrical engineers and computer scientists discovered a way to make the phone functional while eliminating the process by which the phone converts analog signals into digital data.
This problem was solved by encoding the speech patterns in reflected radio signals by using the vibrations heard when someone is speaking or listening on a phone.
Vibrations from the phone’s microphone convert speech patterns in the reflected signals to transmit sound and vibrations from the phone’s speaker which will be used to receive speech.
Even though this team designed a custom base station to receive and transmit the radio signals for the purpose of these tests. They strongly believe the same results can be achieved by the standard mobile network infrastructure or Wi-Fi routers.
Vamsi Talla who is a member of the team made the following statement: “You could imagine in the future that all cell towers or Wi-Fi routers could come with our base station technology embedded in it. And if every house has a Wi-Fi router in it, you could get battery-free cell phone coverage everywhere.”
To allow the phone to work when it’s far away from the base station, some small solar cells have been used to generate power from ambient light. This is a great concept, however, more research needs to be done here.
This team is currently working on video streaming as well as adding a visual display feature to the phone using low-power E-ink screens. It would be great if the major smartphone manufacturers can refine this technology and use it in their latest flagship phone. Please let me know your thoughts about this in the comment section below.