Freevolt generates power from thin air

1 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A British Lord is Using Wi-Fi to Power a Pollution Sensor.

A new method of harvesting electricity from unused radio frequency waves has been unveiled today by Lord Paul Drayson, the former minister for science and chief executive of Drayson Technologies, at The Royal Institution in London.“To integrate Freevolt into different devices, Drayson Technologies has developed standard harvesters but can also provide different antenna and rectifier designs, depending on the application requirements,” said the firm, adding: it is important to note that a harvesting antenna can have different and unique characteristics depending on the application. Drayson demonstrated the energy created by the signals from mobile phones being used by attendees at the presentation before utilising it to power a loudspeaker in the lecture hall. It gives the example of a device placed on a wall, where the antenna can be optimised to cover a broad angle and have the appropriate polarisation and frequency bands to take advantage of the maximum number of existing RF sources.

Lord Drayson, who served as science minister between 2008 and 2010, said that companies have been trying to work out how to harvest energy from WiFi, cellular and broadband networks for many years, but radio waves only provide a small amount of energy, so it is difficult to achieve a high enough level of efficiency. Former British Science Minister Paul Drayson, a peer in the U.K.’s House of Lords, has developed an efficient energy-harvesting system – called Freevolt – which uses an antenna to draw power from multiple wavebands of the electromagnetic spectrum while fitting into a unit the size of a credit card. “We can’t power a mobile phone, but we’ve found that the ambient energy density is sufficient to power sensors, beacons and some wearables,” Drayson says. The Freevolt technology has a multi-band antenna and rectifier—a type of battery that converts alternating current to direct current—and is “capable of absorbing energy from multiple radio frequency bands,” its developers Drayson Technologies and Imperial College London said in a statement. In a white paper, the firm predicts efficacy, and describes ambient field measurement results that yielded 600-700nW/cm2 peak in a office block from Wi-Fi, GSM and 4G LTE, and a peak of 6.7uW/cm2 from 3G signals in busy outdoor London locations.

The first application of the technology is being launched on Sept. 30, placed inside a personal air pollution sensor called CleanSpace, which allows individuals to monitor the air quality around them. It’s only nanowatts of energy, but the energy is everywhere,” said Lord Drayson. “What we’re doing is using that fact to power very small low-energy devices. The radio frequency transmissions come from wireless networks, and as our hunger for information goes up, the amount of data that we want to transmit is going up exponentially, and therefore this is growing all the time.” The output from the Freevolt system can feed into many energy storage devices – which today for the majority of electronic devices is a battery, but in the future could include other options such as a super-capacitor.

The first commercial application of Freevolt technology is the CleanSpace Tag air sensor, which monitors air pollution (carbon monoxide) and feeds this data back to a smartphone app, allowing users to see exactly what they are breathing, wherever they are. The data can also be anonymised and merged with current air pollution data from static sensors installed around the UK, to create a detailed map of air quality all over the country, and identify the cleanest routes and areas available. “Recent news reinforces what many of us have been saying for a long time – air pollution is a critical concern to every individual’s health.

After losing his position following the 2010 U.K. election, he turned his attention to his motorsports company Drayson Racing Technology while looking around for another technology to commercialize. The U.K. suffers health effects equivalent to least 29,000 premature deaths because of poor air quality each year, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. “Air pollution is killing us. Having a monitor informs people about the quality of air and they can make small behavioral changes – such as walking on a side street rather than a main road – to reduce their exposure,” Drayson says.

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