The first video camera that can work without any external power source has been developed by researchers at Columbia University. It can indefinitely produce an image per second of well-lit indoor areas. The device works by utilizing a pixel that measures incident light and then converts it into electric power.
Researchers point to the hardware similarities between solar panels and digital cameras as inspiration for the new device, which is housed in a 3D printed body. The prototype was developed using off-the-shelf components to create a 30x40 pixel image sensor. The camera works by using pixels in two ways: to record and read out the image as well as harvest energy to charge the power supply. The power generation capabilities also mean that when the camera is not in use, it can power other devices such as smartphones.
“Digital imaging is expected to enable many emerging fields, including wearable devices, sensor networks, smart environments, personalized medicine, and the Internet of Things. A camera that can function as an untethered device forever – without any external power supply – would be incredibly useful,” says Shree K. Nayar, professor of computer science at Columbia Engineering and lead researcher on the project.