Self-Powered Camera Uses Its Photo Sensor To Convert Light Into Energy

When you’re asked to design a camera that powers itself, chances are, you’ll combine camera hardware with solar panels and a power generator. Simple enough. This Self-Powered Camera, though, goes about things another way, ditching traditional solar panels and integrating the energy-production system into the camera’s pixel circuit instead.

Created by a team from Columbia University, the prototype camera takes advantage of a photodiode’s capability to be both photoconductive and photovoltaic, using the same sensor to capture images and convert light into electricity. The sensor’s 30 x 40 pixels toggle back and forth between capturing images and generating power, measuring the light intensity coming through the lens and converting that same light into energy in quick succession.

The Self-Powered Camera uses nothing but off-the-shelf components, ensuring the technology can be easily replicated without specialized manufacturing. Instead of a battery or an external power source, it uses a supercapacitor for its power supply, holding any generated voltage until it’s consumed. When shooting scenes at brightness levels of at least 300 lux, the camera can take captures at a rate of one frame per second, which it lowers accordingly when shooting darker scenes.

Granted, jumping from a 1fps 30 x 40 pixel camera to one that can serve for home monitoring is quite a big leap. The team is confident in their system, though, and believes that their Self-Powered Camera’s light-harvesting design can eventually be scaled into a camera with a useful resolution and framerate.

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