Battery-free electronics breakthrough allows devices to run forever without charging

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Researchers have unveiled an unprecedented system that allows electronic devices to run without batteries for “infinite lifetimes”.

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Computer engineers from Northwestern University and Delft University of Technology developed BFree energy-harvesting technology to enable battery-free devices capable of always-running with only intermittent energy input.

The same team earlier last year introduced the world’s first battery-free Game Boy, which is powered by energy derived from the user pressing a button.


Engineers hope the innovative BeeFree system will help cut down on the vast amounts of dead batteries that end up as e-waste in landfills around the world.

This will allow amateur hobbyists and those involved in the Maker Movement to build their own battery-free electronic devices.

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“Right now, it’s nearly impossible for hobbyists to develop devices with battery-free hardware, so we wanted to democratize our battery-free platform,” said Josiah Hester, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northwestern University. .

“Manufacturers all over the internet are asking how to extend the battery life of their devices. They are asking the wrong question. We want them to forget about batteries and instead look to more sustainable ways of generating energy.”

To run continuously with only intermittent energy – for example the sun is moving behind a cloud and is no longer powering the device’s solar panel – the BeeFree system simply stops the calculations that are in memory. without the need to lose or run through a long list of operations. Before restarting when power comes back on.

The technology is part of a new trend known as ubiquitous computing, which aims to make computing available at any time and any place through smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The research represents a significant advance in this area by bypassing the need for a battery, and the associated charging and replacements that come with them.

“Many people predict that we’re going to have a trillion devices in this IoT,” Dr. Hester said.

“This means that one trillion dead batteries or 100 million people replace one dead battery every few minutes. This presents a terrible ecological cost to the environment.

“Instead, what we’re doing is really powering people. We want everyone to be able to easily program the device in a more sustainable way.”

The research will be presented at the UbiComp 2021 conference on 22 September.


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