Research and development is ongoing to improve the capacity of the batteries we use inside our smartphones. But just as important as new battery tech is energy savings for existing ones. A team of engineers working out of Ohio State University believe they can extend the battery life of a typical smartphone significantly thanks to a very simple energy harvesting idea.
The idea stems from the fact that most of the communication signals sent from a phone count as wasted energy. As much as 97 percent of the radio signals never reach their intended destination. So the Ohio State team came up with a simple circuit which can retrieve milliwatts of that wasted energy whenever communication is initiated.
Smartphones send out signals in all directions when communicating, but only a small portion of those signals get used. This new circuit can identify which signals are being used and harvests energy from the rest, which are redundant. This way the circuit siphons off enough energy to save a milliwatts of power, but doesn’t degrade voice or data transmission.
The end result, according to their research, is a battery life extension of around 30%. That’s hours of extra battery life for your phone. Of course, how much you save depends on what you are using your phone for. The harvesting only occurs when you phone is communicating, so using an app offline (e.g. a game) won’t allow any harvesting. Surf the net, have a Snapchat conversation, or talk to someone, and the harvesting kicks in.
The final circuit design is thought to be small and light enough to fit inside most smartphone cases easily. The research team is going to attempt to fund continued development of it through a Kickstarter next month. It’s unclear what rewards they will be able to offer backers in return for a pledge, though, as the circuit would surely need to be fitted by phone manufacturers after fitting it into the design of any given hadnset.