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Researchers at the University of Washington have figured out a way to 3D print devices that can use Wi-Fi to communicate with other devices like smartphones, without the need for batteries or electronics. The trick is the devices the researchers created relied on ambient WiFi signals, the electromagnetic waves your modem is always emitting. This technique is what’s known as Wi-Fi backscattering. Instead of sending its own signal, the devices used an antenna to reflect these waves and talk to other receivers.
The antenna was made using a 3D printer and consists of composite plastics which are conductive thanks to copper and graphene filings. But just making an antenna to reflect ambient WiFi wasn’t enough; the researchers needed a way to modulate the reflected waves and encode information.
Once again, 3D printing was their answer. A switch was attached to a spiral shaped spring, and a gear pressed against the spring. When the gear spun, it forced the switch to rapidly make and break contact with the antenna, quickly changing the amplitude of the reflected signal. The spikes and troughs in the signal can be used to represent 1s and 0s, and voila, a 3D printed Wi-Fi device that uses mechanical motion instead of electricity. Something like this could have a huge range of applications, so long as whatever it’s attached to is providing that movement of the gear in some way.
#wifi #technology #3dprinting #science #seeker #elements
Researchers 3D-print WiFi-connected objects that don’t need power
“Vikram Iyer, a graduate student on the project, said in a statement. “But the big challenge is how do you communicate wirelessly with WiFi using only plastic? That’s something that no one has been able to do before.”
3D Printing Wireless Sensors Without Electronics
“We present various 3D printed application prototypes including buttons, smart sliders and physical knobs that wirelessly control music volume and lights as well as smart bottles that can sense liquid flow and send data to nearby RF devices, without batteries or electronics.”
Battery-Free, Energy-Harvesting Perpetual Machines: The Weird Future of Computing
“In the not-too-distant future, technologists say, most computers will be tiny, ubiquitous, and won’t ever need new batteries—because they won’t have any.”
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