Most portable electronic gadgets these days ship with rechargeable batteries… and many modern smartphones and other devices support fast charging that lets you refuel quickly.

But what if you didn’t need a battery at all?

A team of researchers have developed a proof-of-concept handheld gaming device that doesn’t use a traditional battery. Instead it draws power from sunlight and from… you.

Don’t expect to see this battery-free Game Boy on store shelves anytime soon though.

Developed by researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois and the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, the prototype is designed to look like Nintendo’s classic handheld console, and it even plays games from Game Boy cartridges.

But unlike a battery-powered Game Boy, this device has a capacitor that holds a small charge without the use of any chemicals. One of the project’s co-leads, Josiah Hester, says that unlike a battery, capacitors have no chemicals that break down over time, which means they can be recharged millions of times.

The bad news is they only hold a very small charge. In this case, the device draws power from a combination of solar panels on the front of the gadget and from the user pressing buttons. But that’s not enough energy for the Game Boy clone to run continuously.

The device loses power briefly when switching between power sources — developers say game play is interrupted for less than one second out of every ten seconds when playing a game that requires moderate amount of button clicking on a “not too cloudy day.”

Since the game state is dumped into non-volatile memory before power loss, you won’t lose any progress. But playing high-action games like Super Mario Bros. could get annoying fast if the action freezes every ten seconds or so. Games like chess are probably better suited to this style of battery-free gaming device.

It’s certainly an interesting proof-of-concept. But I wonder if we’ll ever see any real-world applications of this sort of technology.

via TechXplore, Earther, and Hacker News

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One reply on “Researchers built a battery-free Game Boy”

  1. It seems to me like it would be a good fit for an e-reader device. Not going to get a lot of energy from button-presses, but also doesn’t require much energy to run.

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