Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) has a second finalist in the running for the ultimate multi-million-euro prize: the Guardian Angels project.
The idea here is to develop "zero-power intelligent autonomous systems-of-systems" involving smart-sensor and control technologies that extract energy from their immediate environment. Such technologies are already used in everything from thermostats to car safety features, but they require something else to power them — if they could power themselves, the EPFL reckons, a whole new field of portable gadgets, wearable health monitors and critical safety technologies could emerge.
Ultimately, the researchers hope, such technologies could lead to autonomous 'guardian angel' systems that make people healthier and safer. To achieve this, the institute wants to create new low-energy nano-electronics and systems that can harvest solar and thermal energy, generating power using vibrations and electromagnetic waves.