Harnessing the very air around us for energy just came a step closer. An energy harvesting technology that turns ambient radio frequency waves (RF) into usable electricity to charge low power electronic devices was unveiled in London last week. It is early days, but it could have interesting implications for built environments, and infrastructure. 

Lord Drayson, CEO and Chairman of Drayson Technologies revealed Freevolt™: a patented technology developed by an international team in collaboration with Imperial College, London.

It is now commercially available for license to the international developer and business communities, with Drayson Technologies the first to market.

“Companies have been researching how to harvest energy from Wifi, cellular and broadcast networks for many years. But it is difficult, because there is only a small amount of energy to harvest and achieving the right level of rectifying efficiency has been the issue- until now” said Lord Drayson.

“With Freevolt, we have created something special. For the first time, we have solved the problem of harvesting usable energy from a small RF signal” he added.

The first commercial application of Freevolt is the CleanSpace™ Tag air sensor, currently being manufactured in the UK and now available for purchase. This technology creates a crowd-sourced network of personal air sensors, initially across the UK and then expanding to major cities across the world, which will all be powered by Freevolt.

“We were impressed with the Freevolt technology and its wide applicability to power the internet of things” said Frazer Bennett, technology expert at PA Consulting, which worked with Drayson Technologies to co-develop the CleanSpace Tag.

The Freevolt harvester offers a small lightweight design which is scalable and suitable for a wide range of uses, from the low-power Internet of Things such as wearables, sensors and beacons, to built environments.

“Higher power devices may need a battery or supercapacitor as their energy source; in those cases the Freevolt provides enough power to constantly trickle-charge the batteries or supercaps, allowing the products to run almost indefinitely. This is ideal for remote applications like smart sensors on bridges or buildings, and for home safety products such as smoke detectors and security sensors” according to coverage on Engineering.com.

In the few days since the launch, Freevolt has been getting excited coverage from the engineering and tech communities, and is being hailed as another breakthrough to grab the imagination of anyone interested in “going green.”

Demonstrating the technology in the Faraday lecture theatre at the Royal Institution in London, where Michael Faraday first worked on electromagnetism, Lord Drayson showed how much radio frequency energy was in the room, and then used his Freevolt system to power a loudspeaker.

Lord Drayson is a former UK Science Minister and was recently described by the Financial Times as “one of Britain’s most successful scientific entrepreneurs.”

 

Dina Medland is an independent writer, editor and commentator with a strong focus on issues around corporate governance, ethics, the workings of the boardroom and sustainable business. She is on the team of contributors to @ForbesEurope and is an ex-Financial Times staff member who has been a regular contributor in recent years. Further details about her background and a portfolio of work – including her commercially sponsored blog ‘Board Talk’ are available on her website http://www.dinamedland.com