Thursday, June 16, 2011

Future Tech: Wireless power

A few years ago we saw a demonstration by a team at Fulton Innovation of a product called eCoupled. Using the principle of electromagnetic induction, by which an electrical charge can be stimulated in a wire coil by placing another one nearby, the crazy boffins were able to display wireless power transfer.

Despite being high voltage, they said, it was safe, efficient and could be applied to any surface. The demo room consisted of a kitchen without plugs, but full of lights that could be stuck anywhere and a frying pan that heated up just by sitting it on the counter. Put a phone on the same counter and it began charging. Clearly, this was the future.
Fulton are still working on wireless power, but it's a different company that's beat it to the shops, Powermat – and its products are expensive for something that replaces a 50p mains plug.

The good news is that the Wireless Power Consortium are going to be finalising a standard for wireless power called Qi later this year, which should mean prices drop and manufacturers have the confidence to build the technology straight into devices, rather than requiring an adaptor.

If you think that's crazy, though, take a look at Airnergy by RCA. It's a tiny dongle that can turn Wi-Fi signals back into electricity for charging phone batteries and the like.


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