No Batteries Needed? Ever?

On April 15th, scientists from Columbia University announced a power solution that could solve our ‘low-battery’ problems. They’ve created a camera powered solely by ambient light; as long as there’s enough light, the camera will go on snapping photos. It uses no batteries, no power cable, and no solar cells. In short, it’s a completely closed system.

Shree_Nayar_thumbnail-240x300Presently, the camera is only a prototype, but, according to Shree Nayar of Columbia, the technology may eventually find itself into a myriad of other devices. The current idea is to have the camera power itself, backing up the main battery when not taking photos. Nayar says this is part of the current imaging revolution, making the camera a stand-alone tool within a device.

Since the light is converted into energy by the camera’s light sensor (which also takes the picture), the camera is essentially a self-sufficient system. By charging a capacitor, the camera is able to convert the light of an average house lamp into energy sufficient to run the camera. At 200 lux, (average room light level) the camera voltage maintained a steady level, even while snapping photos at a rate of one per second.

Nayar says we’re still a long way – and a great deal of money – away from using this technology in our phones or computers. However, the Columbia University team will be showing the findings at the International Conference on Computational Photography. According to the team, they’ll also be looking for potential collaborators, a good sign for the future of power-starved devices.

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