Student researchers develop a battery-free phone that can do Skype calls

Designed to be the future of mobility, the battery-free prototype cellphone can do landlines, even Skype.

A mobile phone that can function without a battery has been developed by a group of student researchers. Designed to become the future of mobile technologies, the battery-free cellphone prototype can make landline calls, even Skype.

Student researchers at the University of Washington just discovered that a mobile phone can actually run without ever needing a battery. The battery-free cellphone prototype "can sense speech, actuate the earphones, and switch between uplink and downlink communications, all in real time."

It is built on a printed circuit board using commercial off-the-shelf components or existing ready-to-use materials. The prototype only needs a few microwatts of power to operate. Radio frequency signals within 31 feet enable it to run continuously.

This technology was designed by the university's Paul G. Allen School of Engineering students, namely: Vamsi Talla, Bryce Kellogg, Sam Crow, and Wu Meiling, under the supervision of faculty Shyam Gollakota and Joshua R. Smith.

During the test run, the developers used ambient light signals channelled through a base station within 50 feet to call a landline wherein a real-time exchange of communication successfully took place. So far, the most complicated task the battery-free phone can do is Skype calling which was made possible via a cellular network.

"This we believe is a major leap in the capability of battery-free devices and a step towards a fully functional battery-free cellphone," describes the researchers of the phone.

They added that they want to add an e-link display with video-streaming capabilities and encryption to make Skype calls more secure. In a news article published on the university's website, Talla said that this technology, even at its early stage, can be the universal solution to the persistent battery problem of the smartphone industry today.

"You could imagine in the future that all cell towers or Wi-Fi routers could come with our base station technology embedded in it," says Talla. "And if every house has a Wi-Fi router in it, you could get battery-free cellphone coverage everywhere."