back to article Intel plucks power from TV signals

Researchers at Intel have demonstrated low-power electronics running on nothing more than power harvested from a normal TV aerial, or an RFID reader if there happens to be one nearby. The project, presented in this paper at TechOnline (free registration required) describes two projects: the first to draw power from an RFID …


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  1. DutchOven
    Paris Hilton

    Damn it!

    I thought they actually had found a use for Paris Hilton's British Best Friend.

    Paris but not for the reasons you think:

    This is a low-power device and memory is not mentioned.

    Paris is a high-power device. Memory seems limited and interfacing is kept at a minimum (allegedly only 2 careful insertions on the front-side port and none in the rear adaptor).

  2. Neil Stansbury
    Thumb Up


    Cool -so when will I be able to run my toaster or charge my electric car from the cosmic microwave background radiation - that would be truly "free" energy!

  3. Robin Kinge

    BBC Tax

    If we use devices like this in the UK, would we not be liable?


  4. An nonymous Cowerd


    Shirley, wasn't someone anciently arrested near Droitwich for having wallpapered his dwelling in bacofoil, then used the BBC Light Program on longwaves to power his Lights!!! I'm sure 'theft of electricity' type laws were used, (theoretically his abode would have cast an RF shadow) In these modern times, surely Intels devices would now need to each have a TV License!!! they might get away with a B/W at 47 quid? If I was Intel I'd start to mention 'powered by Ley Lines', they'd sell ten times more!

  5. Eddie Edwards

    Old news

    FOAF used to harvest power from main power cables running over his house using a large copper coil in the loft.

    The surprising outcome is that:

    1. This is illegal

    2. They can tell you're doing it

    At what point does it become legal, then?

  6. Chris Holford

    Hardly new

    Grumpy Old Man writes;

    ISTR a circuit in 'Practical Wireless' magazine published in the 60s. It was basically a crystal set, but the aerial picked up enough energy to power a single transistor amplifying stage.

    -mine's the duffel coat with a 6V motor cycle battery in the pocket to power my Grundig portable tape recorder.

  7. Richard Kay

    How long before this wipes out reception ?

    If everyone starts harvesting power from TV/radio transmitters this will very soon kill the range of these, as those behind the harvesters will be shadowed and in poorer signal strength areas than would otherwise occur.

    However, having a single transmitter locally would enable very many low power devices to be used within a building without needing wiring. Perhaps a frequency needs to be researched and allocated for this purpose

  8. Anonymous Coward

    @Old news

    Of course if they try to prosecute you could just remind them you're getting leukaemia and all sorts because of their high potential cables being so close to your house, so providing you with free electricity is the least they can do, especially at today's ridiculous prices!! :P

  9. Nursing A Semi
    Thumb Up

    Freetards unite.

    If you live close enough to a TV or Radio mast, you can align some florescent tubes correctly and obtain free lighting all be it usually at less than the brightness you would get from plugging them in.

    Question is, if enough people did this would we all miss out of the wonders of BBC local radio when more than 1 mile away from the mast? Sounds like a good thing to me lets all get busy.

  10. Efros

    Smacks of

    Waldo and Magic Incorporated.

    Watch out there aint no such thing as free energy. There will be consequences.

  11. spam
    Thumb Down


    Not everyone lives 4km away from a (presumably large) TV transmitter. Very little useful electronic equipment can be practically connected to an aerial located to give an unobstructed path to a TV transmitter (if there is one).

    An AA cell will power that equipment for around 11.5 years except it or the equipment will probably rust away before it runs out, but then so would the aerial. Is the aerial and energy harvesting electronics going to cost less than an AA cell? I don't think so.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So the tree-huggers are right then? We should all dispose of all our technology and go back to hunting dinosaurs before we all get cancer from this unseen power source that permeates through the ether.

  13. mittfh

    Radio comments...

    Sorry to be a pedant, but I think you'll find 198LW is BBC Radio 4, formerly The Home Service.

    The Light Programme is what morphed into BBC Radio 2.

    "All miss out on the wonders of BBC Local Radio"

    Or alternatively create a spot where you're unable to pick up Global Radio (who, if you recall, have bought the majority of local commercial stations and are turning them into Heart clones)...

    Reclaim the airwaves!

    Another thought - could one be developed to harvest power from the 2.4 GHz spectrum? :)

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Sucking power from the airwaves, eh?

    Umm, how can this be a problem? After all, it's what every TV antenna in the country does. All these lot are doing is using the energy for something more useful than putting power into the front end of the television receiver. You don't deny someone else TV power just because you use a bit of the signal, the overwhelming percentage of the power ends up in the ground as it is, only a tiny fraction ends up getting sucked into TV antennas, and the best an antenna can do is suck up that infinitesimally tiny portion of the radiated signal that actually hits it, and it certainly can't magically steal it from the set next door.

  15. Elmer Phud

    The whole idea sucks!

    As per title

    Got coat already

  16. Bob H

    Nikola Tessla...

    ... is turning in his grave.

    Quick someone attach a coil to him and put some magnets in his coffin.

    I'll get me lab coat.

  17. Dave

    @Richard Kay

    Perhaps we could agree on 50Hz ?

  18. Steven Jones


    Hardly new - crystal sets used to use the energy from the radio waves to directly power the audio output, and the turn of the 19th century. So this is well over a century after the techniques was first used, albeit to power the radio itself. In most cases the energy that can be harvested this way is tiny and of very limited use.

  19. Chronos

    @AC: Yes, already been done

    Yes there was a chap from Droitwich who used a rather large tuned circuit to power some lighting in his house. He got the book thrown at him. Thing is, 198kHz R4 is a frequency standard locked to a rubidium source and the official station for broadcasting the shipping forecast. It isn't just used for listening to "The Archers."

    Just remember the inverse square law and the difference between near-field and far-field interactions; someone quite a way away is not going to cast an RF "shadow" the way a relatively well coupled tuned circuit in the near field would. Remember grid dip oscillators? That's the theory behind those. IIRC Mr. Freetard of Droitwich was practically sitting beneath the masts - he could have achieved his objective with a bit of wire thrown in the attic, given Droitwich's huge 400-800kW (depending on who you listen to and how impressed they are) transmitter.

    Fire. Well, I can dream, can't I? There again, if people want to attenuate the TV signal around here, they have my full blessing. Maybe that will encourage the rest of the family to turn the beastly thing off for at least ten minutes a day and give me some sodding peace. No wonder families have communication difficulties with the propaganda-spewing, drivel-filled idiot lantern on 24 hours a bloody day...

  20. Magikben

    Tesla would be happy

    Granted, there aren't large sparky things going on, but he would be happy none the less

  21. Jon
    Thumb Down

    Intel low power - pull the other one

    So Intel would like us to buy more power-sucking overgrown 8086s just because they have reminded us that there are such things as crystal radios.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    @Sucking power from the airwaves, eh?


    That's like saying 'there's a person stood right between me and the light, but no worries I can still see the light just as brightly almost as if that person isn't there'.

    EM = EM = EM, signal absorption = signal absorption = signal absorption

  23. Anonymous Coward

    fluorescent tubes...

    Nursing A Semi Posted Tuesday 3rd February 2009 15:27 GMT

    > If you live close enough to a TV or Radio mast, you can align some florescent tubes correctly and obtain free lighting all be it usually at less than the brightness you would get from plugging them in.

    When I was doing my BBC engineering training back in 197<ahem>, a small group of us attracted the attention of Mr Plod by playing Star Wars under the 400kV lines... apparently an old lady had reported that the Martians had landed.

    Anon; for while 'twas a long time ago, 'twas not a far country and besides, the wench is probably not dead.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @@Sucking power from the airwaves, eh?

    No, it's like putting something smaller than a pinhead between you and a light. The equivalent to you standing in front of a light would be putting a mountain (or at least a large hill) between you and the transmitter. Yes, that too blocks the signal, because the hill absorbs the radio waves (ignoring propagation over the hill). But then, the hill's absorbing many many times the power that can be extracted with a TV antenna. It's all about the solid angle, see, and the wavelength, and some other stuff. EM is indeed EM and signal absorption is indeed signal absorption, but you have to compare equivalent things.

  25. Mage Silver badge

    Light Program

    Yes it became R2 and R4 (The Home service is now on 198kHz). But in the olden days of Radio Caroline, Radio Nord See, 208 and pre fab 4, The Light Program *WAS* on 200kHz.

    In 1971 I saw a demo of a small transmitter lighting up a 40W tube.

    In about 1967 I'm sure I built a Bernard Bambini book circuit that "harvested" RF to power a one transistor radio, Not a crystal set as it used Germanium diodes.

  26. Walking Turtle

    Well actually,

    Kindly refer to the works of Dr. T. Henry Moray (whose sons live yet today) via The Googles for more "FREE"(wellsorta') resonant-energy insight. Moray's mysterious tho well-witnessed Amazing Electric Breadbox appears, from the released-to-Web bits, to have been a small standard-issue Tesla Coil hooked up in the *stepdown* configuration, having been carefully tuned to a certain fundamental frequency at which Nikola Tesla Himself did mathematically and otherwise predict the net effect.

    Antenna, coil-structure, breadbox, ground. A wee bit of what looks like a crude-though-functional Germanium device hooked up at three points inside the box, for managing the self-amplification feedback. Maybe a wee capacitor for control element coupling. A variable cap for fine-tuning the rig. A spring-return switch for kick-starting the device, inserted on the primary (many-turns) side as I reckon it. Little more than that.

    Drive the stake and string the wire up in the air. Then pile on all the load you want, so long as it is resistive in nature. After all, it's merely a critically tuned Tesla Coil operating at its own natural full-resonant frequency only in *stepdown* mode.

    Yes. Indeed yes.

    So has anyone who is maths-enabled (for alack, I am sadly otherwise) yet calc'd that mission-critical fundamental frequency? Please publish it in the thread, if and when ever so! I think we're all in need of a bit more 'leccy these days. Especially when "too cheap to meter" and "EASY to build!" both looms their seductious visages in tandem, hm?

    Agents o'Gummint smashed Dr. Moray's lab just as Agents o'Medicine did Dr. Rife's lab, Back in the Day, y'know. Comms are much better these days, though. There is still safety in numbers too. Let's bust this one wide open and get ourselves and our loved ones off the Westinghouse-model grid straightaway, shall we not just right quick?

    Not stranger than science. Merely strange science, is all. Strange as in Officially Forbidden, but sod all that rubbish; the Dirty Nukes'll eat our entire genome alive and forever if we fail to provide our species with better and right snappy at that. For the greatest part, though, this Moray gear is aught but Hammer Mechanic Science Fair tech.

    The Boffin, 'cause I do very much need one for that maths bit. Got exactly everything else necessary already on hand. Anyone got that base frequency calc'd yet?

  27. Steven Hunter

    Wait wait wait...

    Is there really a TV show called "Paris Hilton's British Best Friend"?? Oh Sweet Jesus...

    I am tremendously sorry, Great Briton... I mean I know we had that little "disagreement" about 230 years ago, but that's clearly no excuse for this sort of behavior.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    It's not Bernard Bambini

    It's Bernard Babani. And though Bernard is no longer with us, his family business apparently lives on:



  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Steven Hunter

    Its okay, Steven. Hopefully she'll take the winner back to the US with her. In which case, it will be our turn to apologise

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Crystal Set Radio...

    Only invented about a hundred years ago...

    and now its news?

  31. James Hughes

    Has AManFromMars

    Changed his name to Walking Turtle?

    I demand we are told!

  32. Wortel

    Old invention

    By Nikola Tesla. Hello prior art!

  33. kain preacher


    Maybe. Depends on were you live and how good your lawyers is. Case in point. In California Direct TV sued this guy for theft of service . The guys defense was they are beaming their signal into my back yard with out my permission , there fore I have a right to receive it. The judge in the case bought it. OFfcourse now what they would get him is for circumventing the encryption . Thank you DMCA

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