Remote Uses No Batteries

How often do you change the batteries in your television remote control?  Yeah, basically never. But that’s a tribute to how efficient the device is and not a reason to overlook this development. NEC is showing off a remote control that uses no batteries. Power is generated using the piezo effect that occurs when a button is pushed. That is to say, when a crystal is compressed it emits a tiny bit of electricity which is harnessed and used to power this device. This is the same principle that is used in the electricity producing sidewalks tested in Japan.

It’s pretty phenomenal that they can run the device using this method. Right now there’s only a handful of buttons but we’re sure there’ll be advances in the technology. There’s a ton of use for this if it can be miniaturized. It is using radio frequency instead of infrared, making it a useful development in wireless doorbells, garage door openers, key-less entry fobs for your car, and many more applications.

[Thanks das_coach]

32 thoughts on “Remote Uses No Batteries

  1. I realize it’s not the same, but this reminds me of the very early TV remotes (of very limited function) where pressing the button struck a little metal bar which caused something inside the TV to resonate, thereby detecting which button was pressed. Basically, it was like rapping on a tuning fork.

  2. While reading this i realized that nowadays the problem for me isn’t as much the batteries of a remote but the remote itself, that is i might lose the remote or the remote buttons loosing their markings or the buttons them selfs seizing to work.
    So i think the problem nowadays has to do with build quality more that power autonomy.

  3. What about all of those watches out there that use motion to keep power? If these are self winding (i.e. no electricity needed) then this is a moot point. But, if the movement charges a battery, and it’s like a remote at my house it gets tossed and thrown about… surely enough to charge it up for a few hours staring at the tube…

  4. @ ‘krov’
    That’s because you’re only paying for the fabrication cost of the batteries, not the disposal cost (including environmental damage, etc).

    And failing to spell your own name right while attention whoring? Fail. :)

  5. What about a solar cell and a supercap or small rechargeable battery? Remotes can’t use much more power than a calculator. Two AAA’s seem to last at least a year or two in most remotes.

  6. Reminds me of a movie Pandorum, where everything from computer console to a stun gun had a backup hand operated generator (crank for the console, pump for the gun).
    That was a nice vision of the future, everything was efficient and energy conscious. Just imagine every single gadget with build in renewable power source.

  7. After reading the article I immediately thought that I’ve seen this before in the older TV sets – Back then … they didn’t use batteries in their remotes back then either. The first poster confirmed the battery less remotes. I also have taken those apart as a kid only to find metal bars.

  8. How many pushes does a piezoelectric crystal last, and how many button pushes are expected in the remote’s lifetime? I guess it doesn’t matter if the remote is cheap enough and offsets the cost of batteries in its lifetime.

  9. This kind of mechanically generated electrical switch would be absolutely idea for dealing with the block adapter leak problem, wouldn’t it?

    You have to leave devices with block adapters plugged into the wall, where they have to maintain a constant supply of low voltage dc current just to be able to respond to a power-up request from the device.

    If you could use this kind of switch to trip a relay on the block, then that transformer could be left off most of the time.

    Am I missing something?

  10. I wonder if the technology could be adapted to wireless game controllers. Admittedly said controllers need to perform more processing than a TV remote control, but the game player is also pressing the buttons and wiggling the joysticks more energetically than you would interact with a typical TV remote control.

  11. I just want a whistle remote, or a harmony type unit that beep when paged… I’m always loosing the dammed things. BTW the harmony wasn’t, the damed remote got beaten up down, didnt support my stuff well enough, but mostly… Was the only thing with live batteries so when it got lost, you couldnt do anything. Pagers for remotes someone PLZ!!!!

  12. i agree paul. kinda off topic but every unit (tv, dvd, etc) with a remote should have a big ‘page’ button on the unit itself. just like all cordless fones. i guess it would up the cost of a remote from nothing to almost something but i spent almost $1200 on my little tv and the remote feels and acts like a dollar store flashlight.

  13. I don’t think I’ve ever had to change the batteries in a remote. I seem to lose/break/replace them long before the batteries run out. Now wireless console controllers, that’s another thing. I wonder how much power could be generated by all of the abuse those things go through.

  14. When the demo has a nice display, it might be worth the piezo (or for the cable box, just GUIDE gets hit enough); for that matter, where is my jog shuttle remote now Videodiscs are gone? Where?

    Good collateral links with EnOcean and shake lights (though the engineering level is similar); not so the block adapter leak thing, which is obsolete, a non-issue and misguided in the way that 2′ windmills are. Ripcords on controllers (or the breakout off the console) sounds awesome.

    It’s easy to attach a bit to the length so that a low-grade service animal (i.e. pretty ok pet) can seek and retrieve the remote.

  15. pretty neat. i saw something similar to this a while back where they used the piezo element from a lighter, connected to the high voltage winding of a photoflash transformer. Converts the >2KV into a few volts, enough to charge up a supercap.

    IIRC it was in Electronics World…

  16. RE: remote pager @device. 99% of cordless phones have the feature. And 99% of the users do not know it’s there-or do not use the feature. Paging from cordless phone base to handset is cheaply added using the existing base-to-handset comm channel. Most device control remotes are 1 way with no device>remote comm path.

    Approx 1995 or so NAP sold some TV sets with a RF based “remote locator” Do note that the feature is not in any current production sets these days. With an amusingly IRONIC on topic angle.

    The battery drain of a remote’s RF locator receiver made them exasperating. Short battery life+can’t find it with the locate button when the batteries are dead=not good for sales.

  17. Piezoelectric lighters spring to mind immediately. It would be kind of interesting for more “one shot” stuff like garage doors (they’re supposed to be hard to push anyway) and it shouldn’t be that terribly hard to emit a specific bleep or bleeps of RF instead of a spark.

  18. I would have just made a squeeze generator to power the remote.
    You want a remote to be kinda big anyway so you can actually find it.
    This would allow tradition LEDs in the remote and not require any expensive HV power conversion electronics.
    Going from LV DC to HV AC is easy going back is a little more difficult.
    Besides make those couch potatoes get some exercise.

  19. The problem now isn’t just existing of those batteries inside a remote, the problem is more with the weight of batteries. It was said that nobody really cares about batteries, because they are often for live. It is more like “damn, this remote would be lighter if there were no batteries inside”.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.