Power play: Wireless charging at a distance arrives

Someday soon, your parking space could charge your car

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During a recent visit to WiTricty by Computerworld, Schatz demonstrated how a new prototype wireless charger called "Prodigy" can power a device from about 10 inches away. The black, oval-shaped Prodigy charger looks much like any charging pad told in stores today and sells for $995. It is essentially a demo kit for engineers, researchers and entrepreneurs who would use it to develop their own charging products.

Schatz showed how a black rubber pad he called a "repeater" can boost a charging signal to make charging over greater distances viable. (The charging distance with a repeater is about two feet.)

Just like the powered wireless charger, the rubber repeater has a copper coil embedded in it, but its coil is passive -- it doesn't have to be plugged into anything. "Repeaters are a structure that allows the energy to hop over distance without have to add any energy to it," Schatz explained.

While the copper coils embedded in repeaters today are made of wire, Schatz said they the coils can also be printed on a flat sheet like any printable circuit. WiTricity has already produced printed coils and demonstrated them in smartphones without adding any thickness to the device. The printed coils can also be used in household products as common as shelf paper in a cabinet.

Using a wire-based, shelf-paper repeater, Schatz demonstrated how under cabinet lighting could be installed without wires, or how commercial soap products, such as Tide laundry detergent boxes, could be illuminated from within to draw a shopper's attention in a store.

WiTricity has created more than a half-dozen prototypes for its wireless charging technology. The tech can be used to charge smartphones, TVs, entire rooms of equipment and even electric cars at relatively long distances.

WiTricity's technology can also charge directly through solid objects, such as wood or Formica surfaces. To demonstrate, Schatz held a charging pad beneath a wooden conference table, proving it could power a light atop the table. It is this technology that holds the promise of wireless charging embedded in desks and other furniture.

Copper coil and transistors
The copper coil and transistors in WiTricity's Prodogy magnetic resonance developer's kit.

The wireless charging market

A recent report from Pike Research estimates that worldwide revenues from wireless power devices will exceed $15 billion by 2020, and that systems based on highly resonant wireless power transfer will account for more than 80% of the total market. WiTricity holds the fundamental patents related to highly resonant wireless power transfer in its portfolio of over 270 granted and pending patents worldwide.

Both magnetic induction and magnetic resonance charging use copper coils: a transmitter coil and a receiver coil. Alternating current in the transmitter coil generates a magnetic field, which induces a voltage in the receiver coil.

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