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Harvesting energy from thin air

Anmar Frangoul | Special to | October 20, 2015



Vincent Ting | Moment Open | Getty Images

The way we power and charge electronic devices is changing, and fast. Today, mains charging, wireless charging and even solar charging are some of the options at our disposal.

Now, one British company has developed technology that it says will “provide continuous power” to low energy internet of things devices, which could mean that power cables and battery replacements eventually become redundant.


Ascent Xmedia | The Image Bank | Getty Images

Drayson Technologies’ patent pending Freevolt has been designed to harvest radio frequency (RF) energy from broadcast and wireless networks. These networks include WiFi, digital TV, 2G, 3G and 4G. The technology was developed by both Drayson Technologies and researchers at Imperial College London.

“The idea behind Freevolt is to use the wasted energy from existing wireless transmissions – so from cellular networks or from WiFi – (and) to harness that using a new type of harvesting antenna device to power small sensors and beacons in a way which hasn’t been possible before,” Paul Drayson, Chairman and CEO of Drayson Technologies, told CNBC in a phone interview.

Drayson explained that a broadcast transmission was like dropping a pebble into a pond and seeing ripples expand. “The energy within the wave… is transmitted everywhere, but only a proportion of it is actually received by a receiving device,” he said.

Drayson described the amounts of this kind of energy as tiny, something like tens of nanowatts per square centimeter. “We’ve developed a very efficient antenna which is able to harvest from more than one waveband at the same time,” he said. “We’re able to harvest from the WiFi frequency as well as the cellular frequency,” he added.