If sustainability is key to the new energy economy, a team of University of Pennsylvania researchers has just taken a big step toward the future by developing the first photovoltaic circuit that powers itself. The circuits could eventually be packed into touchscreens and other consumer devices that would run without a battery or any other source of power, as long as they have a beam of sunlight to harvest.
Like any incremental technology, these circuits aren't going to be powering the next generation of cellphones or replace silicon photovoltaic cells anytime in the immediate future. Right now researchers can only get a tiny amount of power from the circuits. But as the technology scales and becomes more efficient, it should open up some exciting possibilities for the future.
Aside from powering devices or even small robots, the circuits could power computer calculations at the speed of light or be used to model the neural pathways of the brain.
But in the nearer term, the circuits could lead to devices that function sans power source and electrical transmission pathways. Devices that don't need to carry power with them in a battery could obviously be pared way down in size, and – material hazards aside – would leave a negligible carbon footprint behind. Most practical devices would require some sort of backup power supply for the times when shade is unavoidable, but a mostly sustainable device is still a nice notion. Which makes it all the more frustrating that commercial applications of the tech are still likely years out.
I've had a solar powered Casio Pathfinder Watch for 5 years!
if theres no sun, then why not have a battery?
embed it in highways to gather energy for the grid.
Hey morons - all "photovoltaic" circuits power themselves...that is the definition of photovoltaic. Just about every calculator and spacecraft has em. A lot of houses too. Do some research, Clay.
I think Clay means that they also produce light to power them selves.
Hurray for you! You made a "solar panel" something that has been around for years! Hurray!
To clarify, the circuit itself is the photovoltaic. So instead of having that "solar cell" on your watch, house or anywhere else producing electricity and taking up space, the solar cell is the electronics. So in other words, you can now create a circuit board, but instead of etching on a copper clad board, you are etching on a board that when exposed to sunlight will convert light to electricity.
I'm not sure how practical this would be. Maybe when we had only pin-through-hole and circuit boards where the size of refrigerators could this really be beneficial. However, leave it to science to come up with some useful application in the near future.
Yet another case of the article title having no bearing on what the product actually does. This circuit does not in any way "power itself". It is powered by light! It's a photovoltaic cell, for goodness sake. We've had those for, what, a hundred years now? Go to the original article and you'll see that it says "light-powered", not "powers itself" in the title! Although even in that article they go on to describe it as powering itself. Utterly ridiculous. Popular Science would do well to invest in some editors who actually know something about science.
Popular magic will be PISSED popular science got this article!
ABSOLUTELY AMAZING TECH!! LOVE IT
Can anyone read? The article specifically says 'photovoltaic CIRCUIT' not cell. Of course there are electronic devices that use an array of 'photovoltaic CELLS' as a power source. This is entirely different, no power source and associated wiring needed.
Totally amazing, Pennsylvania ain't just for farmers ya know!