Columbia University

Technology Ventures

Self-powered camera for untethered imaging

Technology #cu15174

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Shree Kumar Nayar
Managed By
Satish Rao

This technology is a self-powered image sensor that both captures light and converts it into usable energy for continuous, untethered imaging.

Unmet Need: Image sensor without external power or finite lifetime

Most imaging devices require an external power source for operation, either through direct power connection or on-board batteries, that limits their applicability to remote-sensing and low-power scenarios. As such, there is a need for an image sensor that harvests sufficient power from naturally-available, ambient sources to enable continuous, autonomous imaging in low-power settings.

The Technology: Light-powered imaging sensor for untethered imaging

This technology is an image sensor that both senses and generates power from incident light. The image sensor consists of an array of pixels, each with a photodiode that first captures and records incident light and then harvests the light energy to charge the sensor’s power supply. By harvesting light energy to power the image sensor, this technology can produce images and video indefinitely when operating in a well-lit environment. As such, this technology could facilitate continuous low-power imaging in emerging fields such as wearable imaging, sensor networks, and smart environments.

This technology has been successfully tested using off-the-shelf discrete components, as demonstrated in this online demo.


  • Autonomous optical sensing
  • Massively arrayed remote sensing networks
  • Military intelligence / data gathering operations
  • Ultra-low power electronic devices
  • Self-powered retinal implants
  • Portable and self-powered UV intensity monitor
  • Low-power security/surveillance systems
  • Optical trigger
  • Wearable electronics


  • Simultaneously detects light and generates power
  • Does not require connection to electrical power supply or battery
  • Can store data locally or transmit data to external source
  • Easily built with discrete components
  • Compatible with standard integrated circuit processing
  • Minimal bulk packaging

Lead Inventor:

Shree Nayar, Ph.D.

Patent Information:

Patent Pending WO/2016/112204

Related Publications:

Tech Ventures Reference: