Radio waves are all around us all the time. In most parts of developed countries (and many under-developed regions as well), cell phone base towers provide a steady source of broadcast signals. Scientists refer to this as “ambient power” — power that exists normally in our environment — that could be harvested and used for other purposes.
Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Engineering have completed a study that models how much energy is required for a variety of sensor applications, and whether or not ambient energy is a practical source of power for such devices. The research indicated that cell phone tower transmissions could be used to power sensors across a variety of applications. This power source could be used to recharge batteries, or in some cases, eliminate the batteries altogether.
This technology could be applied to sensor systems deployed for agricultural and industrial applications, but it also could be used to power biomedical devices including wearable and embedded devices. The researchers point out that we may be years away from deployment, but it ultimately could have an impact by saving lives and lowering healthcare costs.