Thursday, April 16, 2015

Picture this: A camera that is powered by its own photos

It's interesting and perhaps hard to imagine that this is actually true. The clip below was shot using a self-powered camera and yes, the quality is somewhat 'stone age'. But hey, no battery's included.

Researchers at Columbia University captured a video of a person using the self-powered camera.

No battery or power: How did they do it?

It works on the principle of turning light into electricity. Remember solar PV? They make use of photodiodes, which are common in both cameras and solar panels, that are permanently set to collect energy, not simply conduct it.

"The camera uses a supercap rather than an external source as its power supply. For a scene that is around 300 lux in brightness, the voltage across the supercap remains well above the minimum needed for the camera to indefinitely produce an image per second." - Columbia University 

Will it replace your energy-hungry DSLR? It's a long shot.

As you can see from the blurry animation above, the existing technology won't compete with the camera in your phone, let alone a pro DSLR. Columbia's prototype captures just 1,200 black-and-white pixels, and it needs a lot of light just to keep running.

Even so, it's promising. If scientists can refine the technology to work at multi-megapixel levels, you could see cameras that last a long time on battery, and might not need a battery at all.

How long before this prototype enters the mainstream photography industry is left to be known.

- Source: Dept. of Computer Science, Columbia University 

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