Different Types of Wireless Charging

by Aeyne Schriber on November 15, 2014 in Mobile

Charging your device can be a hassle if you use a charger that requires cables. With new and emerging technologies, you no longer have to fuss with carrying cables around with you.

Everyone at one point or another has had the experience of finding their battery almost depleted. Then you learn that you forgot to bring your charger with you or it is dark out and you must fumble around to locate the charger. Then you spend more time trying to get it connected properly to your device ensuring the USB is right side up. We have all been through this frustrating experience at one point or another.

Using a wireless charger is a much easier solution to the frustration of maintaining a battery charge. Additionally, a wireless charger often represents a more affordable way to eliminate the frustration of constantly keeping your device battery juiced up. There are a variety of different types of wireless chargers with the most common being a wireless charging pad.

When you charge your smartphone with a wireless charging pad, all you need to do is set your phone down on the pad to charge the battery. There is no need to connect a cable to your device and instead, you just set it and forget it. A wireless charger is energy efficient and plugs into a regular AC outlet. You can keep the charging pad plugged in at all times and then charge your mobile device wirelessly without having to worry about finding your charging cable.

Wireless chargers come in many different models and colors and save you time and space since you never have to deal with clusters of wires. This type of charger represents only one of the methods you can use to wirelessly charge your devices.

How Wireless Charging Works

If you were to define wireless charging, it is a technology that utilizes several different methods for charging device batteries without the use of a charging cable or AC adapter. Wireless charging is used to charge batteries across a wide variety of devices including laptop PCs, smartphones, and tablets. Plus, wireless chargers are also used for larger devices such as electric cars and other devices.

There are basically three different types of wireless charging methods which include radio, inductive, and resonance.

Radio Charging

This type of wireless charging is used to charge devices that run on small batteries and utilize very little power. The devices include wireless keyboards, wireless mice, smartphones, medical devices, hearing aids, watches, music players, and much more. These are devices that already use radio waves to send and receive wireless signals.

Wireless radio charging involves a transmitter that is connected to a socket in order to generate radio waves. When your device receiver is configured to the same frequency as the radio transmitter, you can charge your device battery.

Inductive Charging

Inductive charging is typically used for medium sized devices such as a few different types of smartphones, tablets, and MP3 players. When this method is used for wireless charging, an adapter that contains contact points is attached to the back of your device. When your device battery requires charging, you simply place it on a wireless or conductive charging pad. The charging pad is then plugged into an electrical outlet.

Resonance Charging

Resonance charging is a different type of wireless charging that is used for devices that utilize a significant amount of power. These are devices such as a large computer, electric car, vacuum cleaner, or robot. Resonance charging involves a copper coil which is attached to the device that requires charging with another copper coil attached to a power source.

Wireless charging takes place when both copper coils are configured to a common electromagnetic frequency. This allows you to charge the device battery from the power source. Wireless resonance charging is accomplished over short distances only.

Wireless transmission has been around longer than we realize with one of the first major projects rolled out in the late 1800s. The project by Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American inventor, involved the transmission of one hundred million electrical volts traveling over 26 miles. The purpose of the transmission of electrical volts was to light 200 bulbs that would then run an electrical motor.

Regardless of how advanced mobile devices will become, there will always be the issue of battery life. After a specified period of time, you will be required to recharge the battery which means reconnecting with your charger.

The problem with battery life is not expected to go away anytime too soon. However, the problems associated with recharging using a cable is likely to become a thing of the past. Many companies are already making wireless charging devices available and the industry has gradually taken off within the last year.

Although smartphones and other mobile devices are being designed with more power, the battery life still remains an issue and has not kept up with mobile device advancements. The gap appears to be getting wider and many technology experts predict that by the year 2020 the gap will be even wider. For this reason, the wireless charging industry has begun to take off with efforts being made to meet the advancements in mobile devices within the next five years.

Wireless Charging Background

In addition to the Nikola Tesla project, wireless charging actually dates back to the early 1800s when the concept of magnetic induction was discovered by Michael Faraday, a British physicist and chemist known for his discovery of electromagnetic induction. Magnetic Induction occurs when a circuit that has a current being transmitted through it generates a current in another nearby circuit. The current is generated in the s magnetic field of the transmitter and then the air charge generates a current in the copper coil of the receiver. At this point, the receiving device can be charged.

The following video provides a demonstration of electromagnetic induction and Faraday’s Law.

As you can see in the above video, the reason it is necessary to convert an electrical current into a magnetic one is it would be very hazardous to transmit an electrical current via air. This poses a danger of electrical shock to anyone that happens to be close by, similar to the way in which a lightning bolt would. Magnetic induction does not have this type of hazard.

Up until recently, magnetic induction was never really used for consumer electronics since there was no need until the explosion of mobile devices. The cell phones of the 1990s could survive a much longer time on one charge than the multitasking devices of today with powerful processors installed.

Because of new advancements in technology, there is increased interest in changing the way we power and charge our mobile devices. This is where the wireless charging industry has stepped in to devise ways of solving a more than one century old problem of increasing device battery life.

Currently, there are two primary organizations that are competing for magnetic induction wireless charging. First, there is the Alliance for Wireless Power which is capable of transmitting higher levels of power using a technology similar to magnetic induction. This technology is used to charge larger devices such as vacuum cleaners and gaming consoles. The Alliance for Wireless Power has members from major companies such as Intel, Canon, Qualcomm, HTC, and others.

Second, you have the Wireless Power Consortium which uses inductive wireless charging technology also known as Qi technology. Some of the members also include major companies such as Verizon, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, and others working with smaller devices that utilize less power.

Both of these organizations are working to make wireless charging more widely available. The main focus is primarily on the wireless charging pad concept where you can easily set your device down on a pad for charging.

New and Upcoming Wireless Charging Technologies

There are a few new wireless charging technologies that are worth following the progress. Some are just starting to become available and others are still in the beta phase.

Powermats

Powermats represents the most common type of wireless charging technology where you can place your smartphone down on a pad to charge the battery. Powermat is product produced by Duracell and is a device that creates specified areas on your counters and tables where you can set your smartphone down to automatically charge the battery.

This solves a lot of hassles with having to carry around a charger. This is especially convenient for iPhones which require a special charger and are not compatible with any other charger. It also means that you do not have to position yourself next to the nearest wall outlet to ensure you can charge your device.

Powermat charging areas will eventually be made available on tabletop and counter in restaurants and coffee shops. If you do not have the correct receiver built into your device, it is necessary to purchase a case that will work with the Powermat technology.

Although this is an older video, it will provide you with a visual representation of how Powermat works.

Nexus Wireless Charger

The Nexus wireless charger is produced by Google and is a wireless charging device for Nexus devices. The device costs just under $50 and attaches to a table, countertop, desk, or any other area for convenient access to battery charging.

The Nexus Wireless Charger is compact and plugs into an electrical outlet. Although you still have to be stationary, at least you can charge your Nexus device without having to hassle with cables.

Samsung Wireless Charger

This wireless charger will set you back about $60 and charges your smartphone quite fast. This leaves the microUSB port open for other uses or for charging when a wireless charger is unavailable.

If your Samsung smartphone is not compatible with the Samsung wireless charger, Samsung offers a back cover for your device. The cover costs about $13 and sets your smartphone up for use with a wireless charger.

PowerSquare

PowerSquare is a company that has taken wireless charging to the next level by offering a solution that covers a large charging area. This eliminates the need to align your mobile device with a charging pad.

PowerSquare charges multiple devices simultaneously. It is also compatible with all Qi compliant devices that have been released on the market or are about to released. The Power Square product is an adaptive position-free system that utilizes a variety of transmitter coils to provide flexibility and scalability when charging multiple devices. The product is expected to be released before the close of 2014.

Here is a video that provides a demonstration on how the adaptive position-free systems works.

Intel Charging Bowl

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January of 2014, Intel unveiled a wireless charging bowl which is designed to make charging your devices more convenient. The charging bowl is capable of charging just about any type of device that is thrown into it, including your smartphone and tablet without having to hassle with charging cables.

The Intel Charging Bowl is set to be released sometime before the end of 2014. The product received a lot of interest at CES 2014 and the price has yet to be announced. This will make for a convenient device that you can place by your door. When you come home, you can just empty your mobile devices into the bowl for charging.

The following video will provide you with a quick demonstration on how it works.

Dipole Coil Resonant System

This is a wireless charging product that is currently under development at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. The system is capable of charging up to forty smartphones simultaneously from as much as five meters away in distance.

The Dipole Coil Resonant System uses inductive charging via two magnetic coils. The technology is also capable of powering larger devices such as an electrical appliance in your home or your television. The prototype is still cost prohibitive for individual consumers however, it can be used to charge devices in public areas. This would be known as a Wi-Power zone which allows you to charge your phone in specified zones around a city.

Additionally, one problem with using magnetic induction for larger distances is that a large volume of energy goes to waste. For example, if a transmitter deploys 80 watts of energy, only half that amount will reach your device. This can prove to be an environmental hazard as well as a costly proposition. However, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology is working on ways to make the technology more efficient and the technology probably will not be released on the market anytime in the near future.

Here is a video that shows what the Dipole Coil Resonant System prototype looks like.

uBeam

uBeam is currently developing a wireless charging product that steers away from the concept of magnetic induction and instead, uses ultrasound to charge devices over longer distances. uBeam has been working on this type of wireless charging technology for about three years and plans a launch within the next two years.

The uBeam wireless charging project involves the conversion of electricity to sound. Once it is converted, it is transmitted through the air using ultrasound. A receiving device then captures the ultrasound waves and converts them back to an electrical current which charges multiple devices in the room. This makes it possible to move around a room while charging your mobile device.

Here is more information on uBeam wireless charging technology.

What to Look For in a Wireless Charging Device

Depending upon the type of device you own, your device may or may not work with a wireless charger. This is because the manufacturer decides whether or not the device should be designed for use with a wireless charger. Since wireless charging is a relatively new innovation, your device may not be able to be powered with a wireless charger.

Qi Charging Standard

Most of the wireless chargers that are currently being offered on the market are designed with the Qi charging standard. Although there are more than fifty different types of smartphones that support the Qi charging standard, there are still devices that cannot connect with a wireless charger unless you use a special case or install a receiver on your device.

If your device is not compatible with the Qi charging standard, you can find a variety of battery doors which are produced by your device manufacturer. There are also a variety of device cases and sleeves you can apply to your device to make it compatible with a wireless charger as well.

After you are sure your mobile device is compatible with wireless charging, you can start scouting around for a wireless charging device. It is important to consider different models to help you decide which one is best for your needs. Here are a few points to consider:

Specifications

As you look at different wireless chargers you will find that the power levels vary. Some chargers operate on around five volts where other chargers have a higher energy output. The more energy output, the less time it takes to charge your device battery.

Additionally, some wireless chargers will include a USB cable where others will include an AC adapter. Some wireless charging models may include both. You should also make sure the charger is equipped with light indicators that tell you the device is properly charging your battery.

Appearance

Wireless chargers are offered in many different types of designs, shapes, and sizes, as well as a broad range of colors. Since the whole idea is convenience, portability, and modesty, you will want to choose the device that best fits your home or office decor.

Some of the wireless chargers are larger which makes them more appropriate for tablet PCs. Others are smaller and designed for use on a small table or nightstand. Additionally, there are chargers that are built to be unobtrusive and take up very little table space where others are manufactured with a thin design making them very portable. There are also models which double as a support stand which allow you to use your device while it is charging.

Tech Support

As a general rule, wireless chargers are very easy to setup and use. However, it is good to know that you can get help with the device in the event something breaks or doesn’t work quite right. A high quality wireless charger manufacturer will provide you with multiple ways to contact their help and tech support department. Additionally, the wireless charger should be backed by at least a one year warranty with the better companies offering a two year warranty.

Conclusion

Wireless charging is an industry that is worth following, especially if you do not plan to stop using your mobile devices anytime in the near future. Additionally, a wireless charging device is definitely worth considering if you are constantly on the move with your mobile devices. Overall, the industry is just getting started and it will be interesting to see where it takes us within the next five years.

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