Radio waves

Future technology could turn radio waves into electricity

Creating energy from radio waves may seem like something out of a science fiction novel. However, a team of University of South Florida believes they have developed a device that can do this.

The device, a special metasurface antenna capable of absorbing radio waves and turning them into electricity, could have huge implications for the energy industry as a whole.

Background: Energizing Radio Waves

Researchers have been looking for years for ways to harness the energy of radio waves. This is not an easy process and may cost more energy input than energy output. With the advancement of technology that uses ambient radio waves, such as Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, or cell phone networks, more radio waves are harvested. There has also been progress in metamaterials, particular types of materials designed to have a property not found in natural materials. Together, these two factors make it possible to transform radio waves into energy in a sustainable way.

By developing their antenna to capture radio waves, the team at University of South Florida used one metamaterial with strong absorption of radio waves which would allow a higher voltage to flow through the diode of the device. This made the antenna more energy efficient, showing that low intensity waves could turn into electrical energy. “The technology could also be adapted so that a source of radio waves could be provided to power or charge devices in a room,” explained Clayton Fowler, a member of the team who worked on the development of the antenna.

Analysis: antenna test

The researchers measured the amount of energy harvested while running a radio source between 0.7 and 2.0 GHz to test the antenna. The team then changed the frequency of the radio waves to see if this affected the amount of energy that could be harvested. Their tests revealed that the antenna could harvest 100 microwatts energy from radio waves with an intensity of about 100 meters from a cell phone tower. “We also placed a cell phone very close to the antenna during a phone call,” explained Jiangfeng Zhou from the University of South Florida. “Although it would be more practical to harvest power from cellphone towers, it demonstrated the antenna’s power-harvesting capability.”

Insights: Eliminate Cables

With this device showing extraordinary potential for harnessing energy, researchers believe it could cause a major shift in the energy industry. “By eliminating wired connections and batteries, these antennas could help reduce costs, improve reliability and make some power systems more efficient,” Zhou said. “This would be useful for powering smart home sensors such as those used for temperature, lighting and motion, or sensors used to monitor the structure of buildings or bridges, where replacing a battery may be difficult or impossible.” This antenna can also be designed to be more portable, allowing for better power harvesting while on the go or in the background with smart devices. This would allow for greater sustainability and overall efficiency in the energy sector. With these new antennas being developed, our future may seem more powerful and energy efficient than ever before. »

Kenna Castleberry is a Debrief Writer and Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado at Boulder and NIST). It focuses on deep technology, metaverse and quantum technology. You can find more of his work on his website: