A team of computer scientists and electrical engineers at the University of Washington has invented a cellphone that requires no batteries and harvests power from either ambient radio signals or light. The device is described in a paper published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.
We present the first battery-free cellphone design that consumes only a few micro-watts of power. Our design can sense speech, actuate the earphones, and switch between uplink and downlink communications, all in real time. Our system optimizes transmission and reception of speech while simultaneously harvesting power which enables the battery-free cellphone to operate continuously. The battery-free device prototype is built using commercial-off-the-shelf components on a printed circuit board. It can operate on power that is harvested from RF signals transmitted by a basestation 31 feet (9.4 m) away. Further, using power harvested from ambient light with tiny photodiodes, we show that our device can communicate with a basestation that is 50 feet (15.2 m) away. Finally, we perform the first Skype call using a battery-free phone over a cellular network, via our custom bridged basestation. This we believe is a major leap in the capability of battery-free devices and a step towards a fully functional battery-free cellphone