Self-Powered Mobile Phones – Yet to become a reality

Pick a random person on the road and ask him this question. What is the biggest problem with your mobile phone?

99% of chances are that the person will reply Battery.

That’s true. Mobile phones have outsmarted our imagination. Just 10 years ago it was unimaginable that one day we will carry a mobile phone in our hands which will let us do whatever we could do on computers.

Nokia 5110

Nokia 5110

The first mobile phone I ever owned (in 1999) was Nokia 5110. Nokia released this phone in 1998 so I was not so far behind in catching up with mobile phones. And to be honest that little brick with antenna was the best mobile phone I ever had. It might sound too sarcastic that I’m undervalue BlacBerry Bold 9900, Google Nexus S and iPhone 4S smart phones which I own, but this is the fact.

Nokia 5110’s battery lasted for weeks. I used to charge it once or twice a month and I was free from carrying the charger with me all the time.

Come 2012 and all the smart phones which I use need to be charged every other day. My mobile phone usage hasn’t increased a lot since Nokia 5110, I still use phones rarely for calls and texts. Most of the time I use them for reading news, watching videos on YouTube, playing games and surfing net.

Is it impossible to have a battery which lasts for at least a week?

This question keeps bothering me all the time. Is it really impossible for mobile phone manufacturers to make a battery which at least last for a week if not for a month?

I will never get the answer, or at least mobile phone companies wouldn’t tell it. There is a simple reason why we can’t have a battery which lasts for a week.

And the reason is money. Mobile phone manufacturers make billions out of the battery problem.

How?

Well, it’s simple. Just think over it. If you have a mobile phone with a battery which lasts for weeks then probably you will never replace it with a new phone until and unless the next mobile phone is an evolution.

Also there s bit of psychology involved. These manufacturers have to sell new mobile phones. And one of main USP in any new mobile phone push is the battery life. With every new phone the battery life seems to be pushed 30 minutes to 1 hour more from it’s predecessor. But in reality that 30 minutes to 1 hour never materializes. These companies can easily get away with the false propaganda by blaming the problem to the mobile phone feature, software or apps.

And whatever I’ve written above is based on my personal experience. my BlackBerry bold lasts for just one day in idle mode. I replaced the batter with a brand new authentic battery and it lasts the same. Well don’t be shocked, this is reality. See my post on BlackBerry Bold 9900 and Battery problem.

Technologies which can self-power mobile phones

It is very unlikely that just one single technology could be sufficient enough to self power mobile phones. Think of our day to day electricity. It doesn’t come from just one single source. It comes from a combination of different sources such as coal, hydro, wind, solar and others. If we can’t get electricity from single source at such large scale then I doubt that we will have a single source of self-powered battery from just one technology.

Mechanical self-powered mobile phones

We live in the era of electronics, however we still ride bicycles. We human are wired to resort to mechanical solution for any problem.

The mechanical solution for self-powering mobile phones is to use a crank attached to mobile phones which can be used to charge battery whenever you need to charge.

This solution is not a practical solution. The only invention where such mechanical crank worked was our very old dear mechanical watches. You don’t want to end up with a mobile phone which needs to be charged manually.

Mikhail Stawsky’s Mechanical Mobile Phone

Well as you might have expected, we do have a solution with mechanical mobile phone. this brilliant and sleek mobile phone was designed by Mikhail Stawsky.

All you have to do is to rotate phone to charge.

Mikhail Stawsky's Mechanical Mobile Phone

Mikhail Stawsky’s Mechanical Mobile Phone

No AC power needed to charge this gadget. Just wear it in finger and spin.

Rotate to charge

Rotate to charge

Mechanical watch or mobile phone?

Rotel

Rotel

This phone does look like a gadget from sci-fi movie. It looks promising too. But why we don’t see this phone in the shops yet? After all it has solved the problem for which I started tow write this post?

The problem lies with the mechanical work involved in charging this phone. You don’t want to keep spinning your phone in public. It might be fun for kids but certainly not for adults. Imagine walking down the street only to see a bunch of people spinning their mobile phones in air.

It’s not practical.

The Rotel is better but again it needs some effort.

I don’t have much details on this mechanical mobile phone so I can’t comment further.

But if Apple decide to make iPhone 5S mechanical then I would be first to buy it provided it doesn’t need to be rotated every hour.

Solar Mobile Phones

Solar always comes first in our mind whenever we think of alternative energy. Dreaming of a mobile phone which is powered by solar energy seems to be a near future solution.

When we think of solar and we see photovoltaic cells. Solar mobile phones can have photovoltaic cells attached to it (where?) which will charge battery. It’s no brainer.

So why we don’t have solar mobile phones in our hands? Well if we can’t have our electricity coming from Solar power then how can we think of a solar mobile phones?

It all come down to the technological constraints.

I’m a big fan of solar technology. Coming from a country where you just can’t escape from sun, thinking of sun to solve our day to day’s life’s challenges is an obvious solution.

The most challenging aspect of solar mobile phones is how and where to attach solar panels. In mobile phones all we are left with is the backside of mobile phones which is the best candidate for attaching solar panels. It can be done and it is practical too.

However the most solar mobile phone of the future are most likely to be powered from the front (screen) rather than from the back via solar panels.

Wysips Transparent Photovoltaic Surface

Wysips Transparent Photovoltaic Surface can be used to solar power mobile phone

There is a good news. Wysips, a French innovative company, has invented transparent photovoltaic film which can be fixed at the top of mobile phone’s screen to convert sun energy to electricity which will charge mobile phones.

The photovoltaic surface consist of two layers, the top layer is Transparent Lenticular film which serves as the protective surface for the second layer which consist of a layer of photovoltaic bands. This 2 layer film then can be applied at the top of any mobile phone’s screen and thus converting it into a self-powered device.

It sounds promising. If the film doesn’t hinder with the phone’s clarity then, I think, this is one of the best solution for self powered mobile phones.

It all depends on this company’s ability to market this amazing invention and mobile phone companies’ willingness to adopt it.

Even if they manage to marry, it might not be the best practical solution for western countries such as England where you can count number of sunny days on your fingers. Ironically most of the developed countries are cold countries which die to get glimpse of sun shine. Poor countries don’t have money to invest in the technology and western countries don’t have sun to harness the new technology. That is the problem why solar world is yet to become a reality.

Wysips technology is still in their labs and it will take another decades or so if it can be seen in mobile phones.

Umeox Apollo Solar Mobile Phone

Here is a good news from the China. Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Umeox is building world’s first solar powered Android phone. Android is hot now a days and Android phones come in all sizes, shapes and colours. A solar android phone would become a rage.

Ameox Apollo Solar Mobile Phone

Ameox Apollo Solar Mobile Phone

Umeox Apollo is the closest we can get to a real self-powered mobile phone. This phone was unveiled last year and it was supposed to go in production as well. Down the line after 1 year we see no trace of this phone.

I checked their website to find out what happened to this much hyped solar mobile phone but I couldn’t find any trace.

Sound Wave-Powered Mobile Phones

Buck doesn’t start with mechanical mobile phones and stops with solar mobile phones. There is a lot of research going on in the temples of research – labs.

Another obvious source to power mobile phones can be sound. We use the mobile phones for talk and boy when we talk we really talk a lot. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to use this sound waves to convert into electricity which in turn can power mobile phone.

Sound can be converted into electricity by using piezoelectrics materials which can be used to charge battery in a mobile phone. This technology also sounds promising but there is problem here.

What about people  like me how use mobile phone rarely for talking? This technology will simply fail.

May be we need a hybrid technology here. A mix of sound wave charged and traditional AC charged mobile phones.

At the moment we don’t have any examples of such design. Piezoelectrics still remain in the lab. Sound waves are very weak weaves and we will need a very powerful piezoelectrics with maximum convertibility in order to get the most out of  sound.

Kinetic Mobile Phones

What if we put a watch’s mechanism inside the phone? Yes I’m talking about using kinetic energy to power mobile phones. After all mobile phones being mobile, we will keep them moving all the time which will give us kinetic energy most of time.

Celsius X VI II has created world’s first fully functional Mechanical mobile phones which uses kinetic energy. And guess what it out in the market too.

LeDIX is the first creation from Celsius X VI II. Only 18 of it’s kind were produced and probably they might been sold out. This aerodynamic creation is made from polished and brushed grade 5 titanium discreetly enhanced by solid ebony wood inserts.

Celcius X VI II Mechanical Mobile Phone

Celcius X VI II Mechanical Mobile Phone

All you need is just 250,000€ (excl. taxes) and it will yours.

Radio wave powered mobile phones

What about using the radio waves to power a mobile phone? After all radio waves are everywhere around us. They can’t be seen but then can be sensed if you use right device to sense it.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea to harness the radio wave which is always available whether day or night?

Wow! it is genius isn’t it?

So where are we with the Radio wave powered mobile phones. Well as usual we are still in the labs.

Nokia has been doing research in this domain. I could find an article somewhere which was written way back in 2009. £ years on and we don’t have any further development on this technology. So I guess it will be born in labs and die there.

The energy generated from sound waves will be very weak may be in micowatts. However since the source of energy, waves, never run out we will have constant supply of source.

The trick here would be to harness energy from a broader range of spectrum.

When we will have a self-powered mobile phones in our hands?

At the end of all my research into self-powered mobile phones I have to be disappointed that this dream will remain a dream like time machine. At least we are not going to have any of such devices in our hands in our lifetime?

Comments

2 Responses to “ Self-Powered Mobile Phones – Yet to become a reality ”
  1. DARRELL WALKER

    I think yes,self powered mobiles,they could charge by movement although some people don’t move much. Body heat maybe able to keep a battery charged. Perhaps incoming calls could charge your phone, maybe you could ring a number for a recharge.But a everlasting battery without a recharge unlikely.

    • Ajay

      There are many possibilities to keep battery charged all the time.
      Solar, Sound, Mechanical, Thermal are just some of the examples of mechanism which could be used either alone or in combination of more than one to convert energy to electrical energy.

      The problem is that if we can’t do it at macro level then we can’t dream of doing at micro level.

Leave a Reply to Ajay