Electricity In The Air

Wireless power technologies are moving closer to becoming viable options.

This year probably won’t be the tipping point for wireless electricity. But judging from all the new techniques and applications of this awe-inspiring technology, getting power through the airwaves could soon be viable.

Fulton Innovations showcased blenders that whir wirelessly and laptops that power up without a battery at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this month. The devices are all powered by electromagnetic coils built into the charging surface, and there’s not a plug in sight.

Fulton’s wireless electricity technology is called eCoupled, and the company hopes it can be used across a wide rage of consumer devices. Fulton was one of half a dozen companies that wowed consumers at CES.

In Pictures: 10 Wireless Electricity Technologies

ECoupled uses a wireless powering technique called “close proximity coupling,” which uses circuit boards and coils to communicate and transmit energy using magnetic fields. The technology is efficient but only works at close ranges. Typically, the coils must be bigger than the distance the energy needs to travel. What it lacks in distance, it makes up in intelligence.

In conjunction with the Wireless Power Consortium, Fulton, a subsidiary of Amway, has developed a standard that can send digital messages back and forth using the same magnetic field used to power devices. These messages are used to distinguish devices that can and can’t be charged wirelessly, and to relay information like power requirements or how much battery is left in a device.

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Using this technique, an industrial van parked outside the Fulton booth at CES charged a set of power tools from within its carrying case. The van was tricked out by Leggett & Platt (nyse: LEG news people )–a diversified manufacturing company based in Carthage, Mo., and an eCoupled licensee–and is designed to solve its customers’ biggest headache: arriving at the job site with a dead set of tools. Fulton, which teamed up with Bosch to design the setup, already has test vehicles rolling around in the field and plans to sell them to utility and other industrial companies by the end of the year.

Texas Instruments (nyse: TXN news people ) announced last November that it will manufacture a chip set that will reduce the manufacturing cost of integrating eCoupled wireless power into consumer electronic devices.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009

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