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Apple's Interest in WiTricity Wireless Charging

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported in passing that Apple was experimenting with "a new way of charging" the 2012 iPhone. Like our readers, our thoughts instantly went to some sort of wireless charging mechanism.

Of course, wireless charging isn't a new technology though the current implementations of it have been somewhat limited. The original Palm Pre launched with an induction charger which allows users to charge their device when it is laid on a special charging mat. The disadvantages of such inductive chargers is the need for near physical contact in order for the power to be transferred as well as heat/power limitations.


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A 2007 startup company called WiTricity, however, has been working on some significant advances in wireless electricity that has gotten the attention of much of the industry including Apple. WiTricity is based on the research from MIT's labs where scientists showed a new method for transferring larger amounts of power wirelessly over more practical distances (up to a couple of meters) than traditional induction.
The magnetic fields of two properly designed devices with closely matched resonant frequencies can couple into a single continuous magnetic field. Prof. Soljačić's team showed how to use this phenomenon to enable the transfer of power from one device to the other at high efficiency and over a distance range that is useful for real-world applications.
WiTricity has already received a significant amount of industry attention. The CEO of WiTricity demoed the technology at TED in 2009. Intel has been experimenting with the technology in their labs. Toyota has even collaborated with and invested in the company to develop automotive wireless charging systems.

The link to Apple comes by way of a international patent application from Apple called "Wireless power utilization in a local computing environment." The application was first published in May of this year and specifically details the same resonance technology and refers to the original paper published by the MIT researchers.

Apple describes a scenario where your iMac could be the source of this resonance power to provide a virtual charging area in front of your computer. Keyboards, mice and even mobile electronic devices like the iPhone or iPad could be charged simply be being in a 1 meter proximity to your computer. In typical Apple fashion, they describe that "by doing away with clumsy and annoying cables and eliminating the need to replace batteries, an easy to use and efficient local computing environment can be provided to the user."


The technology is said to be safe, relying on magnetic fields. WiTricity CEO is seen above presenting the technology at the 2009 TED and even shows it wirelessly powering a modified Apple iPhone.

Of course, Apple patent applications are only occasionally predictive of the company's plans, but in light of rumors of Apple experimenting with "a new way of charging", we thought this particular technology (which is already on Apple's radar) was interesting enough to highlight.

Related roundups: iPhone 6, iPad Air 2

Top Rated Comments

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43 months ago
If it wont affect our health, this is definitely the future!
Rating: 21 Votes
43 months ago
Uh-oh. Looks like my tumor's going to get bigger. Oh well.
Rating: 18 Votes
43 months ago
Mmmmmm.... Cancer.... ;)
Rating: 15 Votes
43 months ago
Wonder if this is safe at all for people with pacemakers.
Rating: 12 Votes
43 months ago
Imagine the effect it will have on sex toys business :D
Rating: 11 Votes
43 months ago

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040219075606.htm


Never trust media reporting of scientific research, even if it looks respectable. Always go to the original research if you can. I'll use your second/third link as I found the original paper in the public domain here (http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.1289/ehp.6355).

They used a magnetic field on rats of 10uT constantly for 24hrs and 48hrs. Here are a couple of values for domestic appliances at 1 metre away- vacuum= 1uT, microwave = 0.5uT, TV = 0.01uT.

Here's the MIT paper (http://www.mit.edu/~soljacic/wireless-power_AoP.pdf) where they state their field is 0.1uT for wireless electricity. It will be a tiny amount at any appreciable distance.
Rating: 10 Votes
43 months ago

If it wont affect our health, this is definitely the future!


I think everything does these days anyways, why not have something cool killing you. :D
Rating: 8 Votes
43 months ago

But not at the level they will need to use for transferring useful amounts of energy!.


If you read my post on the previous page I have a link to an MIT which forms the basis of WiTricity. The magnetic field generated is about 0.1uT to be able to charge something like a mobile device. This field strength is much less than a typical TV generates. What makes this technology so good is that you don't need really strong fields.
Rating: 8 Votes
43 months ago

Dude...
Science doesn't have all the answers.
Just the next question and a methodology to finding an answer.

I haven't seen anything but concern and question here.


Well it took me 10mins to find some original published papers on this technology and to get a basic understanding of how it works. I'm not pretending I've read papers cover to cover and could do it myself, but reading a few key passages is enough to educate yourself a little on this type of technology and alleviate a lot of this "concern".

There seems to be a general knee-jerk reaction to new wireless things. I wonder if people worried about radio when it was first invented? We still see people crying over mobile phone towers, and sometimes even wifi! With WiTricity are taking about low frequencies, very small electromagnetic fields, short distances and low yield devices. It's not like they are powering electric ovens from 100s of metres away.


This doesn't sound healthy. Wireless networks, bluetooth, mobile phones, 3G, as if there isn't enough "radiation" around us already. Yes, all of these are labeled safe, but there are not a whole lot of studies on the combined effect of all them.


Errr... yes there are. 2 mins on Google got me various reports and papers. That's without online access to scientific journals.
Rating: 8 Votes
43 months ago
I just want to take a moment and recognize Nikola Tesla who dreamed this concept up in 1899.

-Chris
FOM
Rating: 7 Votes

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