The Battery-Free Future of Phone Charging

UW researchers are making it possible to charge your phone via Wi-Fi
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Remember when powermats were all the rage? It seems like only a few months ago that the buzz was all about high-tech tables, lamps and desks that would eliminate the oh-so-analog process of plugging your phone in for a charge. Well, UW researchers don’t need no stinkin’ charging station—whatever form it might take.

A group of professors and grad students in the Computer Science & Engineering department have developed a router that can charge a battery over Wi-Fi. The team modified existing routers to simultaneously generate a good Wi-Fi connection and strong power (heretofore mutually destructive capabilities), and added sensors that convert the router’s radio frequency (RF) signals into DC power.

The current system can recharge batteries no more than 28 feet away—a reasonable, if limited distance. But with a new startup called Jeeva Wireless (jeevawireless.com), the team is working to expand the possibilities and bring the technology to market (they’ve already customized code for routers in six area homes).

Team member Shyam Gollakota also hinted that a “battery-free” phone may be an option in the not-too-distant future—which means that before you know it, your shiny new iPhone might be following that phone-charging nightstand out the door.