Nokia phones charged by thin air - would they be allowed?

10 June 2009

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.

[Technology Review]

TOPICS:   Mobile   Utilities


  • jah
    2p a charge? Not for a phone, no way. 2p buys you around 200Wh at current prices - my phone has a ~5Wh battery (big for a phone), the charger has a 5W output and takes maybe an hour and a half to charge - it would have to be so inefficient it gave out over 100W of heat at the adapter to cost 2p/charge!
  • MinstrelMan
    so nokia bigwigs get assinated...... iphone takes over the world.
  • Paul S.
    The figure was approximate, based on the figure quoted in the Guardian piece and increased to reflect increases in the past three years. Let's blame their maths if it's so out of whack, but the point still stands, I reckon.
  • jah
    Really - the Guardian said that? Its so massively out of whack though, its probably still at least 10x to high even given a 20p/unit cost for electricity, but hey ho. If they could harness the power to supply enough energy ambient light for street lighting etc the electricity companies would have something to worry about!
  • Jill
    I don't think Nokia can really be stopped though as they can fund their own research. The only way it would be stopped is if someone bought exclusive rights and never used them, or it was made illegal - both resulting in a mass public outcry.
  • roy
    The story is complete rubbish and defies the laws of physics. When challenged, Nokia have admitted it is incorrect but appear to have done little to stop this ridiculous story spreading
  • New W.
    Love that yahoo, fascinating page. Thanks.
  • Alex
    Well the Universe is pretty much made of"s pretty much everywhere and it"s what keeps nature alive.So the fact that the have energy prblems is quite laughable.And there are many energy sources all around us.

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