Long after human civilization has crumbled, the cameras documenting the aftermath might remain.
A new type of video camera is entirely self-powered. Developed by researchers at Columbia University, it can go on forever, continuously recording one image per second of “a well-lit indoor scene”.
The camera works because solar panels and digital cameras are made from many of the same elements, including a photodiode–a device used in a digital camera to measure light’s intensity as it falls on a pixel, and in solar panels to convert light into power. After making a few design changes with off-the-shelf components, the researchers came up with a new kind of power-harvesting image sensor that switches between capturing images and generating power when not in use.
In the prototype camera, the researchers used a capacitor to store captured energy, but the video camera could also work with a rechargeable battery.
It should come as no surprise that this research was funded by the Office of Naval Research–the military would surely love to use self-powered cameras for surveillance in foreign countries. It’s not unreasonable to assume that this technology might eventually be used for surveillance within the U.S., too. Self-powered CCTV cameras could be installed in places that are impractical today, like outdoor spaces that don’t have nearby power hookups. Surveillance may soon always be easy, no matter the location.