Listen to Article
With our smart gadgets continuing to get increasingly powerful, battery power, of all things, is becoming of utmost importance. But amid the messy tangle of smartphone cords, unwieldy portable chargers, and the improbability of finding an electrical outlet, charging remains a challenge. Now, some brilliant scientists at Disney Research have created a room that can wirelessly charge all your electronic devices simultaneously.
Wireless charging is not a new concept. However, the currently available safe non-radiative methods, like cradles and charging pads, do not have a big range and hence require the devices to be in close proximity. While radiative transfer methods, like those used for radio communication, have a bigger reach, they have not been widely adopted due to health concerns.
To overcome the challenges, a Disney Research team, led by associate lab director and principal research scientist Alanson Sample, developed a new technique. Called Quasistatic Cavity Resonance (QSCR), it generates electrical currents through a metallized structure. This helps to create magnetic fields that can transmit power efficiently to receiving devices with the same frequency, allowing multiple devices to be charged wirelessly at the same time. To ensure the induced currents do not pose a health threat, they are channeled through capacitors which isolate potentially harmful electrical fields.
Though the two main issues impeding wireless charging were solved, the researchers, who demonstrated the technology in a custom-built 16-by-16 foot metal room in their lab, still had one more challenge. Thanks to the way magnetic currents circulate, the devices could only be charged if they were perpendicular or at a right angle to the fields. To overcome this hurdle, the team designed spherical receivers with three vertical coils, ensuring that at least one coil is always able to obtain power.
In the research report published on February 15, 2017 in the online journal PLOS ONE, the scientists say the QSCR technique can transmit up to 1.9 kilowatts of power, which is within federal safety guidelines. For those that are curious, this is sufficient energy to charge 320 USB-powered smartphones simultaneously.
While the scientists built a special room to demonstrate the technology, c says customized structures will not be necessary once the QSCR method has been optimized. Building owners adopting QSCR will be able to create wireless charging rooms by simply retrofitting existing structures with modular panels or conductive paint for smaller areas and copper pipes for larger ones.
The enthusiastic researcher says, “This new innovative method will make it possible for electrical power to become as ubiquitous as Wi-Fi." He believes it could "enable new applications for robots and other small mobile devices by eliminating the need to replace batteries and wires for charging." The future of wireless charging certainly looks bright!
Resources: NewAtlas.com,phys.org, disneyresearch.com