Researchers in Sharjah have developed a calculator that runs solely on power scavenged from the air around it.
The device opens the prospect of gadgets that need no external charging, batteries or even sun - a massive advantage in an era where mobile devices play an ever more important role.
The calculator, designed by a team at the American University of Sharjah, is the product of one of seven research grants, totalling Dh2.75 million, that were made last month by the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) in a joint effort with the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC) in Abu Dhabi.
The groups, from four UAE universities, presented their first results at a conference in the capital yesterday.
It is hoped the grants will help create breakthroughs in semiconductor technologies and minimum-energy electronic systems.
Lufti Albasha, an assistant professor of chip design and microelectronics at AUS, started working with energy harvesting, also called energy scavenging, last year.
He now has a team of eight students involved in the project, and said the grant had "opened a new horizon for us".
They are developing different ways to harvest energy by designing low-power circuits and enabling them to be charged by "uncontrolled sources", such as basic human movements or radioactivity.
"Signals are constantly being radiated from different electronic services, like someone talking on their mobile phone," he said. "We just step in and take some of that energy and resource it."
He said the prospect of devices being self-energised was realistic. "There is so much energy in the air, that we could just recycle and reuse it; we like to call it green electronics."
The president of SRC, Larry Sumney, said he had been impressed with the teams' work so far.
"All of these projects are very exciting," he said. "When we first started we didn't know what we were going to get in terms of capabilities, but we got more than we thought we would. The professors are really good."