New tech brings Tesla's omnipresent power closer to reality

Image credit: Daniel Grohmann

A magnetic field present throughout a room similar to a Wi-Fi signal enables electronic devices to be charged without the need for cables or cradles, thanks to new technology developed by Disney Research.

The technology, called quasistatic cavity resonance (QSCR), sends magnetic waves through metallised walls, floors and ceilings, generating a uniform magnetic field to which a device seamlessly connects.

To demonstrate the technology, the Disney Research team created a special laboratory, five by five metres in size, with aluminium walls and floor and ceiling bolted to an aluminium frame. In the middle of the room the researchers positioned a copper pole with embedded discrete capacitors inducing the electric field.

“This new innovative method will make it possible for electrical power to become as ubiquitous as Wi-Fi,” said Alanson Sample, associate lab director and principal research scientist at Disney Research. “This in turn could enable new applications for robots and other small mobile devices by eliminating the need to replace batteries and wires for charging.”

The technology, described in the journal PLOS ONE, brings into reality ideas of 19th century inventor Nikola Tesla. Tesla himself demonstrated a wirelessly powered lighting system in the 1890s and described technology  that would wirelessly transmit power over long distances.

Today’s wireless charging systems, such as those for electric vehicles, only function over the distance of a few tens of centimetres.

“In this work, we've demonstrated room-scale wireless power, but there's no reason we couldn't scale this down to the size of a toy chest or up to the size of a warehouse,” said Alanson P Sample, who leads the Disney Research lab's Wireless Systems Group.

The electric waves generated by the technology are completely harmless for humans but allow electronic devices such as lights, smartphones and fans to instantly connect to the source of power.

Everyday materials and objects in the room remain completely unaffected by the magnetic field, claim the researchers.

“Our simulations show we can transmit 1.9 kW of power while meeting federal safety guidelines,” said engineer Matthew J. Chabalko.

“This is equivalent to simultaneously charging 320 smart phones.”

Though the demonstration room was specially constructed, Sample said it  will probably be possible to reduce the need for metallised walls, ceilings and floors in the future. It may be possible to retrofit existing structures, for instance, with modular panels or conductive paint. Larger spaces might be accommodated by using multiple copper poles.

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