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Power Input Devices Science Technology

Researchers Design a Self-Powered Digital Camera 85

Jason Koebler writes: Researchers at Columbia University have designed a fully electric digital camera that powers itself using ambient light. Put in a well-lit room, it would work indefinitely. The camera's image sensor does double duty. It measures the light needed to make the photograph, and it also takes excess light and uses it to power a capacitor (it has no battery) that runs the camera (PDF). The research team says the technology can be used to create self-powered cameras that can live on the internet of things.
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Researchers Design a Self-Powered Digital Camera

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  • But what about low light performance?

  • Trying to make it work off just light, is sheer gimmickry. You run just run power over ethernet in a wired environment, in a wireless setting running the transciever will really hurt your capture rate especially if there is variation in illumination.

    • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday April 15, 2015 @11:06AM (#49479145) Homepage
      I can think of several situations where a camera is desirable but what you want won't work. The main example is observation of large areas where capture rate is meaningless.

      For example if you want to look for forest fires, you plant a camera on a high spot, overlooking a large area of forest. It takes a picture every hour.

      Another example is time lapse photos for environmental/biological research.

      • So... separate solar cell? I'm sure the actual picture taking part of the sensor would be more efficient if it was optimized for power saving than in this spliced abomination.

        • Money is the determining factor. I can easily see the abomination as you put it, being much cheaper, especially as the power will be designed to exactly provide what is necessary. The saving could be substantial.
    • by orasio ( 188021 )

      Power over ethernet implies cables.
      Expected capture rate is not always 30/60fps.

      • by fisted ( 2295862 )
        Power over Ethernet also requires a Power over Ethernet infrastructure.
        • Power over Ethernet also requires a Power over Ethernet infrastructure.

          Which runs about $12 for a single connection power supply/power inserter... If you are going to run the wire anyway, it's not that expensive.

      • Did you look at the story man ?
        The camera is a joke. They are using discrete photo diodes to generate the image and the power.

        Aside from the fact that their scaling claims false.

        Higher res != More power
        Larger capture area = More power

        You can do better by just popping a solar cell next to the aray. If space is your concern a ccd sensor is going to be insanely smaller anyway

        • by orasio ( 188021 )

          I was just answering _your_ alternative proposal.
          I did look at the story, and I think it's a cool idea, that might even end up having some kind of application. This is research, not engineering.

        • Look at the size of the camera too, wouldn't it have been less difficult to hook a solar panel to any old camera? The thing is huge, takes awful pictures, and does what can be done easier with a solar panel and a camera (and even a WAP).

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      Trying to make it work off just light, is sheer gimmickry. You run just run power over ethernet in a wired environment

      It appears that the entire point is not to require a wired environment.

  • I didn't know Columbia University had such a strong community of voyeurism fetishists in the engineering department. Otherwise, why would anyone want low-quality, discrete, remotely accessible and insecure (IoT) cameras that don't require maintenance? Everyone already has smartphone cameras that are readily available and can be connected.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      All of man's greatest accomplishments were derived from man's biological need for ever easier access to porn & sex.
      • All of man's greatest accomplishments were derived from man's biological need for ever easier access to porn & sex.

        Al Gore's claims to the contrary, it was porn that drove the innovation of the internet.

  • I recently visited an old friend, and saw that he'd installed a PV grid on his roof -- three rows, with thirteen panels in each row, and separate control/monitor circuitry for each one. It took me about two minutes to say "you know, put up a big board with a hole in the middle, and you could do imaging with that array."

    It was a dumb joke, not a profound engineering insight.

    Yes, I'm sure this camera can self-power. No, there's no way to make it cheaper or more effective than putting bigger, dumb panels on th

    • I think the point is you just stick this thing on a pole somewhere, tell it when to trigger and collect the photos months later. It could be a whole lot of separate parts, like a computer can have a monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers attached - or it could be in one box like a laptop is.
      It means the people that want to deploy remote gear can get something prepared earlier instead of assembling a system.
  • I looked at the photo on TFA and that thing is HUGE. Seriously, it's got to be a foot square. :-)

  • It looks like an array of solar cells on which you focus light. So the voltage level at each cell both powers the camera and determines the exposure for that pixel.

    Kind of interesting, kind of pointless at such low resolutions (40x30).
  • In figure 3 Q1 is drawn as a FET (and the circuit implies it is one) but they refer to the "emitter" of it when speaking of the drain.

    And obviously the goal of high resolution is counter to needing large cells to capture charge for harvesting.

    The design would seem to imply that the device cannot be self-starting. That is, if it runs out of charge, it has no way to activate the harvesting and get it self running again. Ah, I see in there it say they had to start with a charged supercap.

    It's still an interest

  • Basically it is just a really low resolution camera made out of discrete photodiodes. It's pretty cool that you can put something like this together quite easily now (though that is a lot of soldering) and a fun project. As for practical applications, well, that's just not really going to work. The active light collection area of the camera is the aperture size, which you have to make really small if you want any sensible depth of field, so the amount of useful energy you can collect is tiny and when you fa
    • Opps, should have thought about that more before posting. The active area is not exactly limited by the aperture size but related to it. If a sufficiently wide angle lens is used that could make it practical but if you need a long depth of field the aperture size is still going to be a big problem.
  • to create self-powered cameras that can live on the internet of things.

    Anyone who uses the term internet of things (IoC) when talking about a product should be shot on sight. Things DO NOT need to be connected to the internet.

    If we can't secure the basic things already connected, important things such as power plants, traffic signals or government computers, wtf do you think will happen when crap like this is thrown in the mix?
    • by JazzLad ( 935151 )
      Terrorists will have access to really, really crappy photos?
    • by radl33t ( 900691 )
      you DO NOT need to be on ranting against something you can easily ignore, yet here you are. I don't need internet connected devices. I want them and I will have them. Russian hackers can turn off my lights or watch my cameras. Or maybe sell my occupancy data to a super high tech burglar team who can rob me of a few thousand dollars of old electronics and furniture. Even worse they could disaggregate my electric loads and discover my large appliance run times. truly frightening.
    • by jetkust ( 596906 )
      I commend you in your war against terminology and technological advancements.
    • Things DO NOT need to be connected to the internet.

      I wonder if that will become the definition of a 'thing' in a generation.
      Thing: An item which is connected to the internet.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      wtf do you think will happen when crap like this is thrown in the mix?

      It's already happening with a pile of webcams naked to the net when it appears that their owners did not intend that to happen.
      Some interesting speculation about what could happen with universally available 24/7 monitoring was in the Japanese short (~5 min episodes) web animation series "Platonic Chain" from around ten years ago. It's probably still on the net. To sum up, kids do some creepy things with their advantage of knowing far to

  • This would be perfect for powering an eye implant like the one recently demonstrated in the news.
  • Are they spray-able? Will they stick to a General Products hull?
  • The word "selfie" has been pre empted in the digital camera world to mean a different thing.
  • You had me until you said "internet of things."

  • It's not powered by itself. Of course, this can be accomplished with most current digital cameras by adding solar cells. .with much better results.
  • And this is why we needed Operation Dark Storm to blacken the sky when the Machines tried to take over. "We don't know who struck first, us or them, but we know that it was us that scorched the sky. At the time, they were dependent on solar power and it was believed that they would be unable to survive without an energy source as abundant as the sun." - Morpheus

Is a computer language with goto's totally Wirth-less?

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