Wireless Power

Time-to-Adoption: Four to Five Years

Anyone who attends a class or meeting where most of the participants have laptop computers is well aware that there are never enough power outlets — and when they are available, they are invariably located in inconvenient places. Wireless power, already being prototyped by several companies, promises to alleviate the problem by making power for charging batteries in devices readily available. Using near-field inductive coupling, power can be transmitted through special surfaces or even through open space to charge devices within a home, office, school, or other setting. Consumer products are already entering the market; the Powermat, for instance, charges up to three devices placed onto its surface (each device must first be slipped into a compatible sleeve). Fulton Innovation's eCoupled technology is designed to be built into desk and countertops, enabling not only power transfer but also other wireless communications between devices placed on the surfaces. Witricity is developing transmitters that would be embedded in walls or other furniture, transferring power via inductive coupling to receivers attached to devices anywhere within the home or classroom. However, it is important to note that there have been health risks associated with using wireless power that need to be resolved before wide-scale adoption.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • Research is underway to explore the use of wireless power as a means to keep electrical implants powered and running inside of patients.
  • As electric vehicles become more commonplace, wireless power technologies are being developed so that these can be charged without being tethered to wall power.
  • Mobile consumer devices such as smartphones and tablets can be charged wirelessly using a growing number of products designed to charge the devices by placing these on charging mats instead of plugging them into the wall

In Practice

For Further Reading

Bye Bye Battery
(Mark Elson, Home Entertainment Magazine, 18 January 2011.) Ph.D. Student Paul Theilmann is conducting research into wireless charging technology involving a sensor that can collect unused radio waves and turn them into power instead of needing batteries to charge devices.

eCoupled Wireless Power White Papers
(//eCoupled.com//, accessed 8 March 2011.) These are two white papers outlining wireless power and how it can be applied. One paper gives an overview of wireless power for consumers and the other one goes into detail about the history of wireless power and the need for a universal wireless charging power solution.

The End of Cell Phone Chargers is Near
(Adam Hadhazy, //LiveScience.com//, 31 August 2010.) Wireless charging options are beginning to proliferate and evolve. This article discusses some of the both wired and wireless technologies that may help free us from carrying traditional chargers for our mobile devices.