New Technology Uses Radio Waves to Generate Energy

A technology for converting radio frequency signals into direct current electricity has been developed by researchers at the University of Central Florida to help meet the expanding energy requirements of the internet of things (IoT) and wireless communication systems.

New Technology Uses Radio Waves to Generate Energy.
UCF Professor Reza Abdolvand (right) and postdoctoral researcher Hakhamanesh Mansoorzare (left) show a die containing micro-fabricated devices related to the technology. Image Credit: University of Central Florida

The technology can expand the IoT and its energy requirements while reducing the reliance of the electronic industry on batteries.

The lead inventor of the technology, Reza Abdolvand, professor and chair of the UCF Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, believes that the energy supply of today’s wireless systems, which rely on batteries, will soon be surpassed by the growth of communication data and devices in the IoT.

The growth is also limiting availability in the radio frequency spectrum. One reason is that today’s systems use part of their limited power budget to sense and monitor the amount of signal power they transmit and receive instead of solely amplifying the signal. This sensing is both for regulation purposes and maintaining transceiver performance.

Reza Abdolvand, Lead Inventor and Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Central Florida

The UCF researchers created a technology that combines power scavenging and spectrum sensing capabilities for ultra-low power applications to address these problems. The power-hungry radio frequency sensing modules of conventional devices would no longer be required, thanks to the resulting passive module.

The innovation uses radio frequency electromagnetic waves, the most prevalent type of communication between IoT hubs and nodes, to harvest ambient energy.

the radio frequency to direct current conversion operates in a sub-millimeter footprint and within a lithographically defined frequency range.

The researchers enabled the invention to handle more intelligent data transmission between IoT nodes and hubs so that the IoT node “understands” the frequency occupancy in its immediate area in order to address the issue of spectrum availability.

The UCF zero-power radio frequency-to-direct current conversion scheme could be used to build wake-up radios, which are inactive and ideally consume zero power before being activated. These radios would then scavenge energy from the radio frequency power emitted by nearby modules.

Additionally, the module could scavenge the lost radio frequency energy and store it in a capacitor or a battery.

In July 2022, Abdolvand and co-inventor Hakhamanesh Mansoorzare, a postdoctoral researcher in Abdolvand’s laboratory, collaborated with UCF’s Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) to submit a patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The team recently received the new Allowable Patent Expenses (APEX) award from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to assist with the patent costs.

I am truly excited that this technology, which is an offshoot of my Ph.D., could help towards a more sustainable future.

Hakhamanesh Mansoorzare, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Central Florida

The team has a working prototype of the technology and is currently looking for collaborators for licensing or joint research projects.

About the APEX Award

Intellectual property protection is supported by an Allowable Patent Expenses (APEX) award from the NSF as part of its Partnerships for Innovation — Technology Translation (PFI-TT) program.

The APEX award supports current PFI-TT grantees’ efforts to commercialize their technologies by covering eligible university patent costs.

This is the first time that UCF has received APEX funding to defray patent expenses. It is going to cover the expenses related to filing and prosecution of the invention.

Raju Nagaiah, Assistant Director, Office of Technology Transfer, University of Central Florida

According to Svetlana Shtrom, director of the Office of Technology Transfer, Abdolvand’s work with the office to secure funding for the recently launched APEX program is an illustration of how innovation and collaboration are flourishing at UCF.

She added, “Applying for a patent can be quite expensive and involves contracting attorneys specializing in patenting such technologies. The APEX supplemental funding will reduce the strain on the university’s intellectual property budget and will allow us to protect a greater number of promising new innovations.

Abdolvand received $249,587 in PFI-TT funding for the years 2020 and 2021 to support his ongoing work to create piezo-semiconductor acoustoelectric microdevices. His research team created an innovation for ultra-low power and miniature wireless transceivers as part of the PFI-TT award.

After the invention was developed, Abdolvand, Mansoorzare, and OTT collaborated to submit a patent application to the USPTO in July 2022. Later, in September, the research and OTT teams’ cooperation resulted in a $49,916 APEX supplemental award from NSF to cover the patent costs. The researchers have also submitted a second invention disclosure to OTT for patent protection.


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