Video Camera Powered By Own Pictures


Researchers at Columbia University have produced a video camera that uses no battery or mains power. Instead it powers itself using the very light it is capturing for the images.

In the first working model, the video is pretty crappy. However, the researchers say the principle could be developed to produce a camera that can shoot useful video.

The camera works on a simple principle: each pixel captures light to produce the image for the video, then harvests the light’s solar energy in a supercapacitor, which gives enough power to capture the next image, and so on.

In its current form, the camera can capture video made up of 30 x 40 pixel images. Testing suggests the camera generates enough power to record at one frame per second for an indefinite period.

That’s based on capturing video when in light conditions of 300 lux, which as a rough guide is at the darker end of what could be considered suitable in an office, or the light you would get outdoors on an overcast day. The researchers suggest a future model could cope with sudden variations in lighting levels, but would have to do so by varying the framerate.

Based on their testing so far, the researchers believe that it would be possible to use the technique on a sensor the same size as commonly found in digital cameras and cellphones today and that this would allow the capture of 210×200 pixel images at a framerate of one per second. Alternatively you could capture higher resolution at a lower framerate, or vice-versa.

Whether there’s any practical use for the technology is debatable. It could make it possible to build a (frankly rubbish) video camera into wearable gadgets or other items where using little or no power is useful. The big problem is that as great as it might sound to some people do be able to have a permanently-operating self-powered camera, you’d still have to figure out how to power any solution for transmitting or locally storing the video data.

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