Microwave Charging Device Harvests Power From Kitchen Appliance To Power Cell Phones, Other Electronics

By Philip Ross on September 30, 2013 11:58 AM EDT

microwave charging
Could a microwave soon replace your cell phone charger? (Photo: Flickr/birdies100)

If you find yourself invariably shackled just a few feet from a power outlet because your phone is always low on juice, wireless charging will sound like a godsend. Researchers in Tokyo are working on a way to wirelessly charge electronics, including cell phones, using energy harvested from microwave ovens.

Microwaves are a kind of electromagnetic radiation. They are used in a number of industries from communications to law enforcement, but most people are familiar with microwaves through the ubiquitous and eponymous kitchen appliance.

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While microwave ovens are designed to trap most of the electromagnetic radiation they give off, some of it is escapes into the environment. The amount of radiation released isn't dangerous, because of U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, regulations. But it is still energy that could be put to better use.

Yoshihiro Kawahara, an Associate Professor in the department of information and communication at the University of Tokyo, and his team developed a small device that picks up energy leaked when the microwave is on. The device is the size of quarter and has a centimeter-long antenna for catching loose energy. It uses the microwave's electromagnetic radiation to generate an electric current that is then sent to your electronic device.

According to Mashable, the small gadget collected enough energy after two-minutes in front of the microwave to power a few low-power kitchen tools like a cooking thermometer and a kitchen timer. But because microwaves are regulated to only allow a small amount of energy to leak from them, an amount "far below the level known to harm people," it would take a while to charge something like a cell phone.

"Regardless, if the technology was built into kitchen appliances, it would help consumers decrease their carbon footprint without any extra effort," Mashable notes.

The idea of wireless charging has already been applied to other fields. For example, magnetic or inductive charging, which uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two objects, is already used to power biomedical implants.

"In these systems, oscillating current in an external coil of wire generates a changing magnetic field which induces a voltage inside an implanted coil," Extreme Tech reports. "The current resultant from this voltage can charge a battery or power the device directly."

This kind of technology could be applied to cell phones, but their internal chips would have to be changed a bit.

The idea for the microwave energy harvesting device came from NASA, where scientists plan to apply similar techniques to capture energy lost from the sun. The idea is to put solar farms around Earth that can collect energy from the sun, convert it to radio waves, and beam it down to the surface.

Read more from iScience Times:

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Time Travel Video: If Not A Cell Phone, What Was Woman In 1938 Video Talking On?

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