Our world is dominated by devices that need to be plugged in on a regular basis, a necessary tedium for the ever connected lifestyle many of us now lead. Doing away with that is an appealing idea, leaving the cords for things that never move. That idea won’t become reality any time soon however, due to the challenges we face in miniaturization of power generation and storage. That, of course, hasn’t stopped numerous companies from saying that they have done so with the most recent batch purporting to be able to harvest energy from wireless signals. The latest company to do this is called Freevolt and unfortunately their PR department has fallen prey to the superlative claims that many of its predecessors have.
Their idea is the same as pretty much all the other free energy ideas that have cropped up over the past couple of years. Essentially their device (which shares the company’s name) has a couple different antennas on it which can harvest electromagnetic waves and transform them into energy. Unlike other devices, which typically were some kind of purpose built thing that just “never needed recharging”, Freevolt wants to be the platform on which developers build devices that use their technology. Their website showcases numerous applications that they believe their device will be able to power including things like wearables and smoke alarms. The only current application of their technology though is the CleanSpace tag which, as of writing, is not available.
Had Freevolt constrained their marketing spiel to just ultra low power things like individual sensors I would’ve let it slide however they’re not just claiming that. The fact of the matter is that numerous devices which they claim could be powered by this tech simply couldn’t be, especially with their current form factors. Their website clearly shows something like a health tracker which is far too small to contain the required antennas and electronics, not to mention that their power requirements are far above the 100 microwatts they claim they can generate. Indeed even devices that could integrate the technology, like a smoke alarm, would still have current draws above what this device could provide.
To be fair their whitepaper makes far more tempered claims about what their device is capable of, mostly aimed at extending battery life rather than outright replacing it. However, whilst such claims might be realistic, they fail to account for the fact that many of the same benefits they’re purporting could likely be achieve by simply adding another battery to the device. I don’t know how much their device will cost but I’d hazard a guess that it’d cost a lot more than adding in an additional battery pack. This is all based on the assumption that the device operates in an environment that’s heavy enough in RF to charge the device at its optimal rate, something which I don’t think will hold true in enough cases to make it viable.
I seriously don’t understand why companies continue to pursue ideas like this as they have either turn out to be completely farcical, infeasible or simply just not economically viable. Sure there is energy to be harvested from EM waves but the energy is so low that the cost of acquiring that energy is far beyond any of the alternatives. Freevolt might think they’re onto something but the second they start shipping their dev kit I can guarantee the field results will be nothing like what they’re purporting. Not that that will discourage anyone from trying it again though as it seems there’s always another fool willing to be parted with their money.