New Printable Antenna Harvests Energy From Air

Professor Manos Tentzeris from the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has developed a new ulta-wideband antenna that is printed using an inkjet on paper or plastic, that can harvest ambient energy, enabling wireless sensors to tap into electromagnetic currents in the air around them.

The printed antenna captures energy from a wide spectrum of frequencies from the air and converts it to a direct current, and stores the captured microwave energy in capacitors or batteries.

Georgia Tech researchers have scavenged sufficient microwatts to power a temperature sensor, using the ambient energy produced by a television station signal that was a third of a mile away.

There is a large amount of electromagnetic energy all around us, but nobody has been able to tap into it, said Tentzeris.

Tentzeris team has been using inkjet printers to print the energy antennas on a variety of paper and plastic using an inku emulsion of silver nanoparticles active as printed radio-frequency sensors and circuits.

Because the energy antennas are printed on papers, they will will be fairly cheap to make, and soon be widely available. There are plenty of potential uses for these antenna, from supplementary power generation for renewable sources to environmental sensors that scavenge energy from their surroundings. Which could also serve as a backup power source, allowing an electronic device to emit a distress signal.

Another cool example of the next generation of print technologies, you can find more on the Georgia Tech research website.