Engineers from Duke University, the University of Washington, and Intellectual Ventures’ Invention Science Fund have just revealed that it is possible to make a wireless charging device that can charge electronics found anywhere in a room.
So goodbye, cords?
In their paper, the proposed device takes advantage of the Fresnel Zone, a region of an electromagnetic field that can be focused. Together with higher microwave frequencies, this allows for the transfer of a much denser power—power that’s enough to charge electronics efficiently over larger distances, unlike the conventional resonant magnetic near-field found in today’s wireless chargers.
The problem is designing an antenna that is able to focus on any device in a room. Their solution? It relies on metamaterials (a synthetic material that’s made of many engineered cells that can produce properties not found in nature). They calculated that having a flat metamaterial device no bigger than an LCD television would be the best way to design the tech.
“Imagine you have an electromagnetic wave front moving through a flat surface made of thousands of tiny electrical cells,” says David Smith, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke. He goes on to say, “If you can tune each cell to manipulate the wave in a specific way, you can dictate exactly what the field looks like when it comes out on the other side.”
With this technology, those tangle-prone and cumbersome wires would be a thing of the past.
There might soon come a day where we could charge our phones without having to stand up and move across the room, which would be great for the less able-bodied…and also the excessively lazy.
And that’s not all, Smith says that there are versions of this concept that can deliver power over much larger distances. If they become successful with this idea, that flat-screen television in your living room could soon be remotely charging any device within its line of sight.
“Whether it’s headphones, cell phones, watches, or even your mouse and keyboard, a major irritation for consumers is the hassle of being tethered to cords to recharge batteries,” said Smith. “And of course they always run dry at the worst possible moment. Our proposed system would be able to automatically and continuously charge any device anywhere within a room, making dead batteries a thing of the past.”