A company inspired by Nikola Tesla says it can extend iPhone battery life by 30 percent by harnessing wasted radio frequency energy. It’s working with Ohio State University to produce and sell a case using the technology.
The case from Nikola Labs appears to be an offshoot of existing devices known as a rectenna (rectifying antenna) which turns the microwave energy of radio frequencies into direct current electricity. Such devices have already been shown as capable of pulling power out of the air in locations near broadcast towers, but it usually generates too little power to be worth the hassle.
Most wireless chargers used for phones today instead work through magnetic induction, taking the power from an outlet and transmitting it to the phone battery through a magnetic field. It’s effective enough for many people’s needs, but doesn’t work if you don’t have a power outlet handy.
Nikola Labs says it can get round this by using a different power source altogether: the energy that is wasted by the phone when receiving and transmitting radio frequency wireless signals. This includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the LTE signals for 4G connections.
According to the company, its created a device that can capture some of this energy from the immediate vicinity of the phone. While it’s still a small amount, it only has to travel a small distance compared with getting energy from broadcast towers, so it should produce enough energy to top up the battery as it goes. It estimates a 30 percent extension in the battery’s operating time, though hasn’t detailed the specific usage pattern that’s the basis of this figure.
This really does seem like the type of project where you have to wait and see if it really works as billed. One obvious question is how accurate the technology is at identifying “wasted” energy and whether it can work without degrading signal quality.
As seems to be the norm these days, the company plans a Kickstarter project later this year, pre-selling the device for $99. If everything goes to plan, it may then diversify into using the technology for low-power mobile devices such as sensors and fitness trackers.