Freevolt low energy harvesting board. Drayson Technologies' Freevolt has the ability to generate power by capturing radio frequencies from the air. (via Drayson Technologies)
With more smart devices depending on the internet and wireless signals for connectivity and energy, the need for powering the IoT becomes more important. Just think of how people fight over the outlets in the airport. One company has an ambitious solution for powering a low-energy device forever. Sounds great, so what's the price? Absolutely nothing. Research and development company Drayson Technologies announced Freevolt, a system that captures energy from radio frequency (RF) signals and turns it into usable power. In other words, this technology creates electricity out of thin air.
How do radio frequencies relate to my smartphone or tablet? These signals allow your phone to get 2G – 4G coverage, let's your laptop get Wifi, and your TV get digital broadcasts. While capturing these signals is not a new concept, research into this method has never really hit the commercial market. But Drayson says Freevolt is the first commercially available technology with the ability to power devices using ambient radio frequencies energy without the need for a transmitter, which is usually employed to power devices at short ranges. A multi-band antenna finds RF energy from any source within the 0.5 – 5GHz range. It is then fed through an “ultra-efficient” rectifier turning the energy into DC electricity. The electricity is then stored via a power module that also boosts and outputs it as well.
It sounds good, but there are limitations with the biggest being it'll be most efficient with devices that need little power. It can't exactly power your smartphone, but the company hopes to use the technology for other things. For instance, they believe Freevolt can be the center of a connected home and the IoT in general. Objects that are sensor based, like a smart smoke alarm, can be powered by Freevolt indefinitely. Another limitation is the amount of power the technology can capture depends on the density of RF signals, which are more common in cities than the countryside. Seems like a great option for low power sensors.
Currently, Drayson is selling licenses for Freevolt and related patents along with offering guidance and tech support for those who are interested. Those who aren't afraid to get hands on can pre-order development kits. But for the meantime don't expect to find Freevolt in many products any time soon since the company is relying on other companies to come up with real-world applications.
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