Disney Research turns a whole room into a wireless charger

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While there's been no shortage of attempts to incorporate wireless power transmission technology into our furniture, garages and living rooms, reality has not quite caught up with the futuristic ideals of untethered wireless freedom.

That said, we might be inching closer to it with Disney Research's recent demonstration of a new method for wireless power transmission that could charge your devices automatically the moment you walk into a room, making electrical cords and charging cradles a thing of the past.

At present, wireless charging is stymied by two challenges: range and health concerns. Despite their reach, radiative transfer methods, which are used for radio communication, have not found much favor elsewhere due to health and safety concerns. On the other hand, while safe, non-radiative methods such as near-field coupling are highly localized and require the devices to be placed near the charging source.

To circumvent these limitations, Disney Research scientists, led by associate lab director and principal research scientist Alanson Sample, turned to a method called Quasistatic Cavity Resonance (QSCR), which induces electrical currents in an enclosed metallic structure. For the purposes of this proof-of-concept, the researchers constructed a 16-by-16-foot room with aluminum walls, ceiling and floor bolted to an aluminum frame. A copper pole, with a small gap into which discrete capacitors were inserted, was placed in the center of the room.

A signal generator located outside the room produces a 1.32 MHz tone, which is given a boost by a power amplifier. A coil receiver then connects this signal to the capacitors in the pole and this system enables power to be transmitted to receiving coils that operate at the same resonant frequency as the magnetic fields. By channeling the induced currents that flow through the walls, ceiling and floor in the room, the capacitors set the electromagnetic frequency of the structure and confine the electric fields, isolating potentially harmful electrical fields at the same time.