Perpetuum mobile: a camera that does not need electricity


I still remember very well how our physics teacher always told us that a perpetuum mobile was physically impossible. Nothing could put out work if no energy is put in from the outside first. Depending on how “outside” is defined, an appliance can be a perpetuum mobile for all intents and purposes, even if it, strictly speaking, is not. Scientists at the Columbia University in New York are currently working on exactly that kind of appliance – a camera that can keep taking pictures and videos for an indefinite amount of time, as long as there is enough light (300 Lux).


Image source: Computer Vision Laboratory, Columbia Engineering

The unlimited life-span is achieved by having the newly developed sensor switch to its second mode after every shot, where it can transform light into electric energy like a photovoltaic module. The saved energy is then used for the next shot, after which it changes back into “photovoltaic mode” again.


Image source: Computer Vision Laboratory, Columbia Engineering

This sounds fascinating, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the new sensor is still harbouring a number of grave disadvantages at the moment – it only has a resolution of 40×30 pixel, or, in other terms, 0.001 megapixel, and it can only take one photo per second. Below you can see an example shot, which was significantly enlarged to make viewing it properly possible.


Image source: Computer Vision Laboratory, Columbia Engineering

More information can be found in the scientific article Towards Self-Powered Cameras and on the Self-Powered Camera website.


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