It’s a small problem, to be sure. A pair of penlight batteries in a typical TV remote control will last for years. But when you add up the millions of TVs (and DVD players and set top boxes and other devices that use remotes), that means an enormous number of batteries still end up in landfills. A French company, Arveni, has a diffferent vision for remote controls.
One of the hot technlogy topics these days is “energy harvesting“. In most cases, this means taking existing motion and converting it into electricity. Tiny generators in the heels of your shoes that can recharge your cell phone as you walk are one idea. Others are working on ways to put these tiny generators inside roads so that passing cars and trucks can generate electricity. In general, this is done using piezo electrical components. These clever devices can turn motion into electricity (or electricity into motion). It’s the technology behind the “clicker” that you may use to light your barbecue grill.
Arveni has developed a prototype remote control that lets you press a single button (like the clicker on your grill) and it will generate enough power to send 2 to 10 remote control commands before you need to press it again. The company hopes to create a next-generation version where every button on the remote will generate enough electricity to power the next button press.
Assuming that the components can be made inexpensively enough, there are all sorts of ways that energy harvested from keypresses could help power electrical components, from notebook computers to cell phones. They wouldn’t replace batteries, but could make a charge last longer. It’s a clever idea that could help make many devices more energy efficient.