Wireless charging is making inroads in the healthcare, automotive and manufacturing industries because it offers the promise of increased mobility and advances that could allow tiny internet of things (IoT) devices to get power many feet away from a Wireless Charger.
The most popular wireless technologies now in use rely on an electromagnetic field between a two copper coils, which greatly limits the distance between a device and a charging pad. That's the type of charging Apple has incorporated into the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X.
How wireless charging works
Broadly speaking, there are three types of wireless charging, according to David Green, a research manager with IHS Markit. There are charging pads that use tightly-coupled electromagnetic inductive or non-radiative charging; charging bowls or through-surface type chargers that use loosely-coupled or radiative electromagnetic resonant charging that can transmit a charge a few centimeters; and uncoupled radio frequency (RF) Wireless Charging Stand that allows a trickle charging capability at distances of many feet.
Both tightly coupled inductive and loosely-coupled resonant charging operate on the same principle of physics: a time-varying magnetic field induces a current in a closed loop of wire.
It works like this: A magnetic loop antenna (copper coil) is used to create an oscillating magnetic field, which can create a current in one or more receiver antennas. If the appropriate capacitance is added so that the loops resonate at the same frequency, the amount of induced current in the receivers increases. This is resonant inductive charging or magnetic resonance; it enables power transmission at greater distances between transmitter and receiver and increases efficiency. Coil size also affects the distance of power transfer. The bigger the coil, or the more coils there are, the greater the distance a charge can travel.
In the case of smartphone Wireless Charging Pads, for example, the copper coils are only a few inches in diameter, severely limiting the distance over which power can travel efficiently.
But when the coils are larger, more energy can be transferred wirelessly. That's the tactic WiTricity, a company formed from research at MIT a decade ago, has helped pioneer. It licenses loosely-coupled resonant technology for everything from automobiles and wind turbines to robotics.
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