A Tiny Box That Charges AA Batteries From Electromagnetic Fields


A piece in the current issue of Mother Jones makes a compelling case that lead, the element, can be traced as the cause of a surge in violent crimes in the ’80s and early ’90s. Exposure to leaded gasoline and lead-based paints, the theory goes, quietly tweaked the brains of an entire generation, causing lower IQs, hyperactivity, and behavioral issues that later manifested themselves as crime. It’s inconclusive whether lead is indeed the U.S.’s “real criminal element,” as the story says, but it does get one thinking about the potential effects of the other myriad invisible forces all around us, like Wi-Fi or cellular signals.

Dennis Siegel, a digital media student at the University of the Arts in Bremen, Germany, has harnessed one such force for his most recent project, for a decidedly less worrisome aim. His Electromagnetic Harvesters are small devices that wirelessly leech off electromagnetic fields to charge AA batteries.

The operation is straightforward. Holding one of the small white boxes up to any electromagnetic field–ubiquitous, invisible things produced by antennas, thunderstorms, and just about anything plugged into an electrical socket–slowly starts transferring a charge to a AA battery. It seems like magic, though Siegel points out that many other devices, from induction-charging toothbrushes to antenna-powered crystal radios, work on the same principle.

( via fastcodesign.com )