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Warm welcome for wireless power?

Posted: 11 Mar 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:power wireless? electronic portable? charger convenience wire?

Wireless power is emerging as a popular concept since portable electronic devices called for a convenient means to power these gadgets, eliminating the inconvenience of several chargers and wires. Industries also echo this sentiment, as wires represent a burden in terms of cost and maintenance. Scientists are considering several technologies for such applications.

Analysis from Frost & SullivanWireless Power Supplies and Contactless Energy Transferfinds that induction-based wireless power could represent the next wave in powering portable electronics. It could also enable new applications in other sectors such as health care for powering implants to increase patient convenience and quality of life.

Wireless power has tremendous potential in various industries including consumer electronics, automotive and process control. The power and energy industry is investing substantially in research on large-scale wireless energy transfer, as space-based solar power systems are attracting attention as an alternative form of energy to meet energy demands in the long term. If adopted, this technology will facilitate the use of all electrical devices, which is a highly sought-after purchase factor when choosing cellphones or laptops.

Seeking alternative sources
" Moreover, natural deposits such as coal and petroleum are rapidly depleting, and one day, alternative energy sources will be needed," said Technical Insights research analysts Sharmishta S. and Agata Jozwicka. " If Earth-based natural energy sources will not satisfy the world's energy needs, space solar power systems could become the only alternative."

As the home automation trend is catching on, several companies have developed wireless power technologies such as charging pads for use in homes and offices to power personal electronic devices.

Meanwhile, universities are researching ways to improve efficiency over longer ranges. Wireless power transfer is highly efficient at short distances. However, there tends to be substantial power losses when the transfer distance increases. In the case of power-hungry devices such as industry machines or even laptops, the transfer should be efficient enough to enable rapid recharging and should not interfere with the continuous working of the device during the recharge. Even wired chargers are not considered completely reliable since they heat up while charging, dissipating energy through heat.

To quell such consumer apprehensions and increase customer acceptance of the technology, scientists are studying techniques such as resonant induction, microwaves and lasers, although currently, these methods limit the amount of power that can be transmitted.

Size trade-off
"The other problem here is that some of such devices are often large and so, there have to be trade-offs among the size of the devices, the proximity between the transmitter and receiver, and the amount of power to be used to recharge the device," noted Jozwicka. "There is a need for complementary electronics capable of working at higher frequencies to improve the efficiency of the wireless power transfer."

Even if all these performance requirements are met, potential users will still be wary about the safety of wireless energy transfer.

"This challenge is especially pertinent for personal and household devices, where the users are concerned about the impact of electromagnetic field, microwaves or even radio waves on their health," observed Sharmishta. "To accelerate the adoption of this disruptive technology in a conservative end-user market, it must be ensured that energy transfer technologies operate within regulation norms."

Technology developers can provide an important breakthrough in terms of widespread use in the consumer electronics segment through collaborations and agreements with OEMs in incorporating a unified charging scheme across a range of products. To assuage the fears of end users and expand the user base in the future, industry participants could also consider energy transfer with space solar power systems and lobby for international cooperation between governments.





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