Science & Technology

A New AA Battery Pulls Energy Right Out of the Air

Most things run on rechargeable batteries these days. That's handy, but it also leaves your phone shackled to the wall every 10 hours or so. Meanwhile, TV remotes and other devices that run on AAs and AAAs can go anywhere, but you need to constantly replace their batteries. A new innovation could keep gadgets charged without ever needing a charging cable, a new set of batteries, or even downtime to recharge.

Energy Unchained

Disposable batteries aren't just inconvenient because they have to be swapped out every month or so. They're also pretty bad for the environment. The wireless power company Ossia wanted to solve both problems with their newest development, the Cota Forever Battery.

It's actually pretty incredible. You just pop in these batteries like you would a set of standard AAs, and then never look back. They will never go dead — at least, as long as they're given the chance to recharge in a room with a Cota transmitter.

Those transmitters work by targeting devices with a concentrated radiofrequency signal that a special receiver can convert into power. The Forever Batteries themselves act as receivers, but in other versions of this technology require users to attach their phones to special accessories that then allow them to charge without being plugged in.

The Long Road to Wirelessness

If it's adopted widely, the Cota technology could make wires and disposable batteries a thing of the past. But it won't become widespread overnight. A phone could be built with the RF receiver to draw power from a Cota transmitter, but until those become mainstream, the devices will have to be charged in special sheathes. That's not the only drawback to the system, though. It also charges quite slowly, as much as four times slower than cable charging. But those drawbacks are much less of an issue when you're dealing with a small gadget like a TV remote, which can usually be charged with a AA — not to mention the fact that if your device lives in the same room as your transmitter, it can charge all day long. So who knows? The Forever Battery could be a part of every household before very long.

Researchers have been dreaming of energy flying through the air for more than a century. Check out Nikola Tesla's "The Problem of Increasing Human Energy" (free with a trial Audible membership) for a discussion on the topic from an early innovator. If you purchase or sign up through that link, Curiosity will receive a portion of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas January 31, 2018

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