TI unveils wireless charging chip with 4X powering area

The new TI charging chip is slated to show up in many mobile products this quarter and next

Texas Instruments Wednesday unveiled its first single-stage wireless charging integrated chip (IC). TI said the new IC is 60% smaller than its predecessors.

The company today also added a power controller chip that it said increases the charging area of a pad by 400%.

TI's new bq51050B chip is said to be the industry's first Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) 1.1 Qi-compliant (pronounced "chee") wireless power receiver with an integrated direct battery charger. In the past, multi-stage chips were required to perform the same power-receiving function.

TI chipset
TIs new bq500410A transmitter and new bq51050B receiver chipset. The receiver chipset is 60% smaller than past wireless charging chips.

In addition to the receiver chip, built to be embedded in mobile devices such as smartphones, TI also announced the bq500410A -- its first Qi-qualified wireless power transfer controller.

The controller allows a Qi-compliant smartphone or other portable devices to charge in a surface area of at least 70 mm by 20 mm, 400% larger compared to today's 18-mm by 18-mm "bull's-eye" charge space.

The 20V receiver chip combines rectification, voltage conditioning, communication control and Li-Ion charging capability in a single, tiny integrated circuit (IC), - eliminating the need for a separate battery charger circuit as past multi-stage chips have had.

TI's new chip is already embedded in smartphones and charging pads that will eventually show up in everything from airport terminals and coffee shop tables to the center console of your car.

Patrick Heyer, TI's product line manager for battery charge management and wireless power, said the chipset is based on "closely coupled" magnetic inductive versus "tightly-coupled" charging technology.

The "closely-coupled" technology allows more freedom of movement in relationship to where something like a smartphone can be placed on a charging pad.

"As long as the device is flat on the charging surface, you basically have more degrees of freedom in XY-axis direction than previously released receiver type chips," Heyer said.

By comparison, tightly-coupled magnetic inductive technology requires mobile devices to be placed in an strict charging pad area and moved no more than 1mm in any direction, Heyer said.

TI's new receiver and transmitter ICs are already shipping in the new Nokia Lumia 920 and Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones. It is also being used in wireless charging accessories, such as the Nokia BH-220 Bluetooth headset and DT-38 cradle, JBL PowerUp Wireless Charging Speaker docking station with built-in NFC, and the Nokia Wireless Charging Pillow by Fatboy.

TI's new chipset is used in both the Nokia Fatboy recharge pillow DT-901 and the Nokia Lumia 920 phone

Products from from about 120 companies are certified as compliant with the Qi standard, but most are not shipping today.

The certified products run the gamut from the LG Optimus LTE2 and Panasonic Eluga smartphones, to charging pads, gaming controllers, Blu-ray Disc recorders, smartphone docking speakers, automobile phone chargers, alarm clocks, battery packs and charging modules that can be installed in tabletops and furniture.

The WPC is already working to extend its Qi specification to allow 10-watt power charging, said Menno Treffers, chairman of WPC.

"In the U.S., you're seeing smartphones [with wireless charging] taking off this quarter," Treffers said. "Europe will be a little later than the U.S."

"There will be a bunch more products this year and Q1 next year with this chip in it," Heyer said. "We've worked with a lot of phone [manufacturers] over last 12 to 18 months to bring this technology forward."

TI's new bq51050B chip comes in a 1.9-mm by 3.0-mm WLCSP (Wafer Level Chip-Scale Package) or 4.5-mm by 3.5-mm QFN (quad-flat no-leads) form factor, and is priced at $2.75 in 1,000-unit quantities. A bq51051B version with 4.35-V charge voltage is also available. The bq500410A charging chip comes in a 48-pin, 7-mm by 7-mm QFN package, and is priced at $3.18 in 1,000-unit quantities.

TI said the new charging chipset is just the tip of the iceberg as it plans to roll out technology over the next five to 10 years for HOV lanes with wireless power-enabled roads as well as charging technology for everything from televisions to kitchen appliances.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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