The Electromagnetic Fountain

Ambient Energy

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What are the potentials of harnessing ambient energy, and “recycling radio waste”?

An article by Jim Borg at describes how a Hawaii-based research team is experimenting with harvesting electromagnetic waves in the environment for use as an alternative power source for battery-powered smoke/burglar alarms and other devices. But photon harvesting or beam scanning technologies can be put to other uses too – military and “homeland security”.

One of the challenges is to overcome the problem that ambient sources produce very small amounts of energy. On the other hand, the amount of energy needed to power devices is dropping.

The company, Ambient Micro LLC, based at the Maui Research & Technology Center, received approval from the Air Force for a $100,000 research contract to develop a prototype power supply for sensors on small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones:

This is robofly [ …a stealth robotic flier that is actually the size of a fly. Squads of roboflies might one day be sent to search out targets, collect and provide information on damage assessment, or search for chemical and biological warfare agents…..]


(image by R. Fearing/UC Berkley, source:

While the implications of the future uses of microscopic sensors powered by ambient energy can seem intimidating – tracking tags on supermarket products and even in your bloodstream – the first use of the technology might be for tracking endangered desert tortoises at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif!

[… “Since they are endangered, the Air Force can’t run their tests if the tortoises are on the test range,” says Weeker. ” However, since the adult tortoises have the habit of burrowing underground, the best way to track them is to put a tracking tag on their babies. The technical challenge of developing a very small RF (radio frequency) tracking tag that fits on the back of a baby desert tortoise may lead to many defense and commercial applications for low-cost, active and passive tracking of equipment, vehicles and people.”]


Written by ajsteggell

May 19, 2007 at 6:50 pm

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