Nokia phones charged by thin air - would they be allowed?
Have you ever stopped to consider how much unseen shizzle blasts through your body every day? There's most of the elctromagnetic spectrum for starters - all that stuff your eyes can't see, like radio waves and X-rays. Then there's the sun throwing out a solar wind of charged particles, and 50 trillion neutrinos passing through you every second. It's a miracle you're still standing, man.
Many minds greater than ours consider this to be an awful waste, and have set about finding ways to harness this background energy. Top boffins at Nokia in Cambridge are attempting to create mobile technology that utilises ambient electromagnetic radiation from the likes of wifi transmitters, phone antennas and TV masts, and convert it into electrical current to keep a phone battery topped up.
The group is working on a prototype handset that could harvest up to 50 milliwatts of power from the air - enough to slowly recharge a phone overnight. There's still some work to do, as the current prototypes can only manage three to five milliwatts.
While it's the type of technology that would bring blessed relief to Ryanair staff, it'd be curious to see how far the technology progressed or at least, was allowed to progress. You might have heard of Nikola Tesla and his pioneering work in electricity and magnetism that eventually led to the likes of the radio and AC motor. What most folk have never heard of before, is Wardenclyffe Tower.
Construction of the tower began at the turn of the 20th Century in New York state. Tesla intended to create a centre for transatlantic telephony, but also further his successful experiments into wireless power transfer; the tower would harness radiation from the atmosphere and beam free electricity across a wide area. The problem was the word free; funding for the project came from influential industrialists and JP Morgan, a leading figure in American utilities. The story goes that Morgan asked how consumers would be charged for the electricity. Tesla's goals were altruistic in nature and profit was not his concern, so Morgan ended financial support.
If Nokia manage to build a mobile phone that can be charged from thin air, there will surely be resistance and consequences. There are roughly three billion phones in the world; charge a phone twice a week at two pence a time, and you're talking about a technology that would cost electricity providers over £3 billion a year. And if the tech can be scaled for larger items, you begin causing a world of trouble and lost profits for the traditional (and politically powerful) utility industries.