Someday we might use 5G wireless signals to power electronic devices

We know that the 5G mmWave spectrum offers the fastest data download speed despite some drawbacks; these signals do not travel far and cannot easily enter buildings. But what they can do is create energy that could one day replace batteries and other energy sources.

According to Popular Mechanics, researchers at Georgia Tech have created a concept of a wireless power grid operating on 5G mmWave frequencies. This is done through the use of a sticker type device that captures the electromagnetic energy created by 5G base stations. Currently, this energy is used to transfer data.
Manos Tentzeris, Ph.D. is a professor of flexible electronics at Georgia Tech and he led the school's research team that created a specialized lens to capture the power generated by mmWave 5G signals. The Rotman "rectenna" lens is a small device that collects the energy sent by 5G wireless networks. But one thing that is characteristic of 5G signals makes it perfect for feeding a power grid and that is the ability to concentrate power.
Georgia Tech alumnus Jimmy Hester is the senior lab advisor to the group working on this development. Hester claims that 5G base stations operate at high frequencies, which allows them to "focus the power." In other words, “what we're talking about is more of an intentional power-on of the devices, themselves, focusing the beam towards the device in order to turn it on and on. "

5G signals can be harnessed and used to provide wireless power

The key to this whole project is the Rotman lens, a flexible lens that helps collect energy in multiple directions. This is the same technology used in military surveillance systems that can identify targets in various directions without having to move the antennas. Aline Eid, holder of a doctorate. a student and principal investigator states: "In the same way that the lens of your camera collects all [light] waves from any direction, and combines it at one point ... to create an image, that is exactly how [this] the lens works. The lens is like a tarantula… because a tarantula has six eyes, and our system can also look in six different directions. " 

With the Rotman lens, the field of view of the “sticker” energy collecting device changes from a 20 degree “pencil beam” to 120 degrees. This facilitates the collection of mmWave energy in the 28GHz band. Eid states that if you place a sticker on a drone, you will be able to collect energy from 5G base stations all over town.

Still, this system is in its infancy and right now, rectenna stickers can only collect 6 microwatts of energy, enough to power small IoT devices at a distance of 180 meters (590,55 feet). In laboratory tests, the device was able to collect 21 times that amount.

Tentzeris says his team is looking for funding and is particularly interested in working with wireless carriers. This way, wireless service providers can place the stickers in cities at the same time as they build their 5G networks. Manos adds: “In the early 2000s, companies went from voice to data. Now, using this technology, they can also add power to data / communications. "

Looking to the future, the rectenna sticker could end up being embedded inside a garment or sewn into clothing. When it comes to the financial aspects of producing the stickers, Tentzeris says each unit costs just a few cents, which means the money may not stop it from becoming a legitimate method of delivering electricity.

The Georgia Tech professor said, “Scalability was very important, you're talking about billions of devices. You might have a great prototype in the lab, but when someone asks, “Can anyone use it? You must be able to say yes. " 

Maybe one day in the future, 5G signals will provide your phone with the power it needs to run all day, every day, on top of the connectivity that these signals provide.

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