Wireless charging is coming: Researchers juice up 40 smartphones from 5 meters away

Researchers from KAIST in Daejeon, South Korea have managed to extend the reach of wireless power transfer technology, bringing us closer to a world where phone and tablet chargers are as obsolete as MC Hammer’s parachute pants. 

The new technology, called “Dipole Coil Resonant System (DCRS),” can charge up to 40 smartphones simultaneously from 5 meters away. The DCRS transfers electric power wirelessly through the use of transmitters and a specially designed coil structure.

The Dipole Coil Resonant System (DCRS) can charge up to 40 smartphones simultaneously from 5 meters away.

The new method improves on a 2007 experiment conducted by researchers from MIT. That concept, called WiTricity (as in wireless electricity), was used to wirelessly power a 60-watt light bulb from over 2 meters away. MIT researchers used a magnetic field to perform the wireless energy transfer. The technology generated enough electricity to power a laptop from across a room.

The KAIST team improved on the technical limitations of the MIT concept such as a complicated coil structure (there are four coils for input, transmission, reception and load), bulky resonant coils, low transfer efficiency and sensitivity to temperature, humidity and human proximity. At a length of 3 meters, the DCRS is also smaller than the MIT prototype. 

In a press release, Prof. Chun T. Rim of the Nuclear and Quantum Engineering department at KAIST outlined the workarounds his team use to improve on the MIT concept: “Our technology proved the possibility of a new remote power delivery mechanism that has never been tried at such a long distance. Although the long-range wireless power transfer is still in an early stage of commercialization and quite costly to implement, we believe that this is the right direction for electric power to be supplied in the future. Just like we see Wi-Fi zones everywhere today, we will eventually have many Wi-Power zones at such places as restaurants and streets that provide electric power wirelessly to electronic devices. We will use all the devices anywhere without tangled wires attached and anytime without worrying about charging their batteries.” 

In its current state, the DCRS is said to have the capability to power a large LED TV and three 40-watt fans from 5 meters away. The team has also tested the technology for applications in emergency situations. Last March, the DCRS was used for a research project at the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Company. It remotely powered equipment in the nuclear power plant as a response to a simulated emergency situation similar to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan.

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