Battery-Free Cellphone!

Battery-Free Cellphone invented at University of Washington

A great step forward is made by a team of computer science and electrical engineering researchers at University of Washington introducing a battery-free cellphone. The team of researchers used commercial-off-the-shelf components (COTS) in which they built them on a Printed Circuit Board (PCB).

Unfortunately, this cellphone isn’t a complete phone as one might think. Nor it is a smartphone. Rather, it is a barebones prototype with just 0-9 buttons along with a (#),  (*) and 2 action buttons with no touchscreen included nor data connection. Thus it is still in its initial phase.

But the new idea tested and accomplished comes here: A cellphone with no battery.

So how do this device harvest power?

This battery-free cellphone consumes small amount of power (2-3 microwatts) from air surrounding it. A traditional cellphone uses much more power (about 800 mill watts).

The battery-free cellphone collects power using one of the two following methods:

  • Ambient RF signals transmitted by a 9.4 m away base station.
  • Using tiny photodiodes which turns received light into electricity.

How does a battery-free cellphone communicate?

The team applied a technique called “backscatter”. This technique is used to transmit digital packets to the base station. Then the base station receives the digital packets to connect to the number dialed via Skype. However, converting analog speech to digital signals costs a lot of power. Therefore, the team succeeded in analog communication even though digital signals are used by the phone to dial numbers.

Future Improvements:

For now, this is a great leap toward the future. But the team will not stop here. They are promising more improvements. The team will work to include more options such as:

  • E-ink display for messages.
  • a better calling quality.
  • a camera for selfie.

What’s the benefit of this battery-free cellphone?

Of course you have no chance to play games with this cellphone. But indeed it is helpful. A battery-free cellphone will be available for many emergency situations when you’re smartphone’s battery is empty. For example having a car accident or health issue far away from home will indeed require a battery-free cellphone if your primary phone is out of battery.


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