The 5G cellular network promises better mobile connectivity, faster Internet access, quicker downloads, and fewer gaps in service areas. To do so requires enormous energy, which could mean that the 5G networks might become an accidental power grid. However, that potential depends on whether the tech sector figures out how to enable devices with the ability to harvest 5G’s extra energy.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a palm-sized, machine-printed card with a Rotman lens-based antenna system that efficiently harvests 5G energy. Previous attempts to harvest the high-frequency energy emitted by 5G have used antennas with a large aperture opening for energy reception and required a single, line-of-sight angle to the power source. In contrast, using a Rotman lens allows the Georgia Tech solution to receive power from six directions at once, increasing the overall aperture while freeing the antenna from directional limitations.

The researchers recently published their findings in Scientific Reports. The team believes their system opens the door for powering countless devices that previously relied on batteries via the 5G network. They intend to develop 3D and inkjet printing options, making the card an affordable energy harvesting solution with far-reaching application and accessibility.

If the research team is correct, it could transform how mobile phones and other devices use power by reducing the need to plug in, or eliminate it entirely. This ubiquitous power source could be a game changer for health tech wearables and other mobile devices.