Magnetic resonance: The next generation of wireless charging

November 8, 2016 OpenSystems Media

With technological advances and ubiquitous connectivity enabled by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 4G, the world is shifting to wireless. Seeing the convenience of replacing the wires in many of our devices and appliances, consumers are now, more than ever, demanding that same convenient and flexible experiences for charging our devices, too.

We’ve had the knowledge to deliver wireless power for some time. The first generation of wireless power products used the principles of magnetic induction. Electric toothbrushes were among the first products to employ this technology, and more recently some mobile phones have used magnetic induction for charging. These solutions, however, have had limited traction because while they represented a good first step, they haven’t delivered the full flexibility and convenience that users want to charge their devices. For example, first-generation approaches required precise placement of the device on the charging source and couldn’t keep up with wired charging speeds.

Magnetic resonance, on the other hand, meets those challenges. Also known as highly resonant non-radiative wireless energy transfer, magnetic resonance delivers in ways that magnetic induction cannot address. Magnetic resonance allows wireless charging over distance; multiple device charging; charging through materials (i.e. wood, granite, water, skin); and high efficiency of power transfer. Because of these benefits, magnetic resonance creates next-generation experiences for end users, enabling a seamless “drop and go” charging experience. In other words, consumers now have the ability to power “snack” all day long, wherever they go – grabbing a bit of power at home, at the office, in the car, etc. – without ever having to worry about plugging into an outlet or forgetting their power cord.

What this can do for design engineers

With the newest offering of magnetic resonance in semiconductor form, it is easier than ever to develop and embed this technology into end products. Magnetic resonance technology is attractive to design engineers because it gives them the freedom to create much lighter, thinner, more reliable, and less expensive devices. The technology enables delightful user experiences, while providing product developers and designers the ability to eliminate wires and failure-prone connectors for their end users.

Member companies of the AirFuel Alliance – the standards group behind magnetic resonance in consumer markets – are defining the technical specifications to ensure that interoperable solutions incorporating magnetic resonance technology can be brought to market. Today, the specification is mature and products are beginning to make their way through the approval process for certification.

Magnetic resonance at work

Consider these use cases for wireless charging that we can expect in the near future, enabled by magnetic resonance:

  • The entire office experience will be more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing as phones and laptops can charge and operate throughout the day without a wire in sight.
  • Electric and autonomous vehicles can charge wirelessly by simply driving over a charging pad in the garage or parking lot, eliminating gas stations and making potentially autonomous vehicles even more self-sufficient.
  • Numerous industrial applications would benefit from the removal of wires that pose hazards (for example, electrical wires in a drilling and mining environment are a fire hazard), carry electrical noise (critical to avoid in precision manufacturing) or are otherwise impractical.
  • By going wireless, billions of power cords are eliminated from being manufactured and, later, from being dumped into landfills.

The stage is set for products incorporating magnetic resonance technology to hit the market. Key players across the ecosystem have been working together to bring this latest innovation to market and finally free us from the tangle of charging wires that surround us.

Sanjay Gupta is Vice President of Product Management at WiTricity.

Sanjay Gupta, WiTricity
Previous Article
Wireless coexistence and interference: The connected car conundrum
Wireless coexistence and interference: The connected car conundrum

Automotive electronics manufacturers have to be good jugglers to keep the connected car revolution moving f...

Next Article
Mobility tech "growing pains"
Mobility tech "growing pains"

A look at the future vehicle through the eyes of SAE International This article is the third of a six-artic...