Friday’s NYTimes featured an update on the wicked cool radio wave research pioneered by, among others, Joshua Smith ’91.  Smith (or at least his alter-ego) was previously featured in an Intel commercial.  Smith’s work was also lauded in a recent Economist article and video (see Smith beginning at the 6:30 mark).  Highlights from the NYTimes article: 

Until recently, the use of radio waves to power wireless electronic devices was largely untapped because the waves dilute quickly as they spread, said Joshua R. Smith, a principal engineer at Intel’s research center in Seattle and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington.

“That’s changing,” said Dr. Smith, who explores the use of electromagnetic radiation. “Silicon technology has advanced to the point where even tiny amounts of energy can do useful work.” .  .  .

At Intel, Dr. Smith, working with the researcher Alanson Sample of the University of Washington, created an electronic “harvester” of ambient radio waves. It collects enough energy from a TV station broadcasting about 2.5 miles from the lab to run a temperature and humidity sensor.

The device collects enough power to produce about 50 microwatts of DC power, Dr. Smith said. That is enough for many sensing and computing jobs, said Professor Otis. The power consumption of a typical solar-powered calculator, for example, is only about 5 microwatts, he said, and that of a typical digital thermometer with a liquid crystal display is one microwatt.

DR. SMITH and his colleagues have built a second device, powered by radio waves, that collects signals from an outdoor weather station and transmits them to an indoor display. The unit can accumulate enough energy to send an updated temperature every five seconds.

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