Kickstarter - phone charger powered by the phone


Senior Member.
I found a crowdfunding campaign seeking the funding for a project of a phone charger that is powered by the phone self. Better told it is an external case for a cell phone that is supposed to be "recycling wasted energy" from phone's cellular and WiFi radiation. It is supposed to extend the battery life by 30%.

The campaign received the "Kickstarter Staff Pick" label. I'd tell that it is rather revealing about the quality of the project checking at Kickstarter (that many claim is better than for example at Indiegogo).

At the moment of the writing, the campaign collected $76,709

EDIT: I am sorry, I did not notice that the campaign is actually from the last year. It did not meet the funding goal of $135K, so I hope the funds were not paid out. I am not sure whether they did not try, or are not trying to fund it elsewhere. I still think that it was worthy of starting the debunking thread, because "Free Energy" activists are still promoting it on Facebook and on their websites.

Some quotes from the campaign text:
Game-changing wireless power technology that gives your phone more battery life by recycling wasted energy. Made in the USA.

We have integrated our radio frequency harvesting technology into phone cases for the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6, allowing you to significantly extend your phone’s battery life by recycling wasted RF waves.
University Technology Partnership

Nikola Labs partnered with The Ohio State University's Electro Science Laboratory to commercialize this groundbreaking RF energy harvesting technology.

In collaboration with Dr. Chi Chih Chen, a world renowned researcher in antenna design and RF energy harvesting and his co-inventors Emre Koksal, Ness Shroff and Roland Tallos, Nikola Technology was born.

This is possible because the case captures wasted RF energy from the phone and recycles it back into the phone resulting in extra battery life, without disrupting call quality or data communication.
These results show a 30% reduction in discharging battery rate in the presence of RF energy harvester.
Content from External Source
And the main video of the project (more available on YouTube):


The Debunking

So let's look at it a bit closer:

First of all, they claim harvesting the energy without disrupting the transmission quality. It means they cannot harvest more than a small fraction of the energy, especially if they want to assure good transmission quality also at spots with weaker signal. The removed energy should be very low to avoid the transmission quality disruption. The problem is, though, that the more you damp the signal (the more energy you remove), the more power the phone pushes to the antenna to maintain the transmission quality. So in fact, by harvesting the emitted energy, you will not reduce the consumption, you will increase it. Not speaking about the efficiency of the RF harvesting and recycling - the amount of the energy harvested, converted, and charged back to the battery, would be negligible in comparison to the energy lost.

In the first place, it would save the battery life much more efficiently, if the phone reduced its emitting power, when the transmission quality is satisfactory. And not surprisingly, every modern cellphone does exactly that.

Now ignore this important logical glitch of their "invention", and let's look how much energy they could theoretically harvest in the best case.

I looked up emission levels of common cell phones, and they are typically below 1W at peak. The following post of Lawrence Finch (an electrical engineer specialized in RF design) summarizes it the best:
The absolute maximum that an iPhone can radiate in the cellular bands is 600 milliwatts (0.6 watts), by law, as well as laws of physics. And it will only radiate that much if the cell site signal is very weak (below 1 bar). With 5 bars its radiated output is 50 milliwatts (0.05 watts). The maximum that it can radiate over WiFi is 30 milliwatts (0.03 watts). And the maximum that radiates over Bluetooth is 10 milliwatts (0.01 watts). The Apple watch is limited to 3 milliwatts (0.003 watts) over Bluetooth, as it is a Bluetooth 4 Low Energy device.
Content from External Source
The capacity of an iPhone 6 battery is 6.9 Wh. Significant part of the energy is needed for the electronics, for the processing power, and for the display. The maximum talk time of an iPhone 6, according to the specifications is 14 hours. That's for ideal conditions, so even those 50mW would not be emitted in such case, but let's count with the double of it anyway - 100mW during 14 hours makes 1.4Wh. Now let's assume Nikola Labs can miraculously extract 50% of the radiated energy without disrupting the call quality, and recycling it back to the battery with 100% efficiency. It would mean it can recycle 0.7Wh. That's still only 10% of the battery capacity, not 30%.

Based on the calculation that failed to meet the promises despite the excessively optimistic and completely impossible conditions, we can quietly conclude that the harvester proposed by Nikola Labs can never (even remotely) work as advertised. It would be interesting hearing the official stand of the Ohio State University that is claimed to be in a partnership with Nikola Labs.
Last edited:
I found an article about the "invention" on the website of The Ohio State University. Surprisingly, it confirms that university professors and engineers were (or perhaps still are) indeed involved. Namely Chi-Chih Chen, research associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, doctoral student Roland Tallos, Robert Lee, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Can Koksal, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Ness Shroff, Ohio Eminent Scholar in Networking and Communications. Chen joined with Lee as well as John Bair, Rodolfo Bellesi, Flavio Lobato and Will Zell to form Nikola Labs.

I wonder about the quality of the education at the Ohio State University, if it keeps professors and engineers who believe that by external damping (and recycling) of the emitting power from a cell phone you can extend the battery life by 30%. If I had kids wanting to study electrical engineering on that university, I would discourage them from applying.

And Nikola Labs continues with the hoax, selling the device at for $99:
What I do not quite understand is the last sentence of the product description:
... So get set to enjoy 5 volts of extra energy by downloading a file via Google Drive !
Content from External Source
Perhaps besides buying the useless external case, you have to install an application that reduces the emitting power, saving so some energy, but there is no mention of it anywhere else in the text. The expression "5 volts of extra energy" is also quite revealing about the quality of the education of the author of the text.

They have also their own website at On the "about" page they list a dozen of co-workers and partners.
Last edited:
And Nikola Labs continues with the hoax, selling the device at for $99:
except when you click "buy" it just leads to the website which doesnt say anything about 30% and i cant find a place to buy it anywhere.
Yes, that's correct. My bad that I did not test it. I think I'll try contacting them and ask them for comments.