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Scientists from MIT have discovered a way to convert Wi-Fi signals into electricity

By Wong Chung Wee - on 30 Jan 2019, 2:18pm

Scientists from MIT have discovered a way to convert Wi-Fi signals into electricity

(Image source: Christine Daniloff via ScienceDaily)

Scientists from MIT have discovered a way to convert Wi-Fi signals into electricity. This involves the use of an existing device called a rectenna. It’s a device that converts “AC electromagnetic waves into DC electricity.”

The MIT researchers demonstrated a new kind of rectenna, which uses a “a flexible radio-frequency (RF) antenna that captures electromagnetic waves, including those carrying Wi-Fi, as AC (alternating current) waveforms.” The output of the rectenna is fed to a device fabricated from a two-dimensional semiconductor that is just “a few atoms thick.” The AC signal is converted by the semiconductor device into a direct current voltage. This output could be potentially harness to power electronic circuits or charge power cells.

The key application of this discovery is the possibility of doing away with stored-power cells, and the use of Wi-Fi signals to power devices. The research paper did highlight the promising early application of this technology to power wearables and IoT sensors.

The secret element behind this discovery is 2-D material called molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). It’s able to convert up to 10GHz of wireless signals to DC electricity with about 30% efficiency. According to their paper, their experimental device managed to convert 150 microwatts of typical Wi-Fi signals to 40 microwatts of power. It's sufficient to power a "simple mobile display or silicon chips." This is in comparison with current and more expensive rigid rectennas, which achieve 50- to 60% efficiency. Therefore, the researchers are committed to building more complex systems with higher efficiency.

Their attempts aren’t novel as we have covered past research that made use of radio signals in an attempt to power a battery-less handphone; however, that experiment involved the use of converted radio base stations to emit the signals.

(Source: ScienceDaily)

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