Breakthrough flexible material transforms WiFi signals into electricity

Researchers are always looking for new materials that can help power electronics and medical devices in the future. MIT has made a breakthrough with a new material that makes that goal closer to reality. The breakthrough is thanks to a fully flexible device that can convert WiFi signals into electricity that could power devices.

A device that converts AC electromagnetic waves into DC electricity is called a "rectenna." MIT's new rectenna uses a flexible RF antenna that captures electromagnetic waves, including WiFi signals, as AC waveforms.

The antenna connects to a device that is a two-dimensional semiconductor just a few atoms thick. The captured AC signals are converted to DC voltage that can power electronic circuits or recharge batteries. The device would allow battery-free passive devices that capture and transform WiFi signals found everywhere into useful DC power.

MIT notes that the device created is flexible and can be fabricated in a roll-to-roll process allowing the coverage of large areas. MIT has made some early applications of the rectenna tech that include powering flexible and wearable electronics, medical devices, and sensors.

Experiments have shown that the device can produce about 40 microwatts of power when exposed to typical power levels of WiFi signals. That is more than enough power to operate an LED or power a silicon chip. Researchers also see a use for the rectenna for powering implantable medical devices. The novel 2D material used in this device is called molybdenum disulfide.