Wireless power is a concept which seems strangely familiar to someone who grew up with Star Trek and Star Wars. In fact, as an idea it has been around for over one hundred years; both Edison and Tesla created prototypes. The prospect of no-wires has occasionally reared its head over the years. In 2007 an MIT Professor (Marin Soljacic) made a technology breakthrough which prompted futurologists to predict a cable-less world by the end the decade. Eight years later and looms of wires are still dominating my lighting scheme plans. However, there have been recent indications that lighting products will be coming to the market in the near future – so are we about to witness a commercially viable wire free lighting scheme soon?
It is possible to project electrical energy across a space using “resonance” whereby energy transfer is enhanced when a frequency is applied. It’s similar to the principle of a wine glass exploding when a singer hits exactly the right tone. However instead of using acoustic resonance – new wireless power systems utilise low frequency electromagnetic waves.
How Wireless Power Works
- Magnetic coil (Antenna A) is set in a wall or ceiling.
- Antenna A, powered by mains, resonates at a specific frequency.
- Electromagnetic waves transmitted through the air.
- Second magnetic coil (Antenna B) fitted in a luminaire – resonates at the same frequency as first coil and absorbs energy.
- Energy charges the lamp.
The system uses two coils – one plugged into the mains and the other embedded or attached to the bulb. Each coil is carefully engineered with the same resonant frequency. When the main coil is connected to an electricity supply, the magnetic field it produces is resonant with that of with the second coil, allowing “tails” of energy to flow between them. As each “cycle” of energy arrives at the second coil, a voltage begins to build up that can be used to illuminate the light.
A New Age of Wireless Dawning?
The prospect of new wires is indeed compelling. Designing a scheme without any restrictions and complete freedom to position light sources, will be the actuality of a dream – true ’Painting with Light’. What is the reality and how long do have we to wait? We have featured a wonderful project called ‘Flyte’. An LED lamp that is literally suspended in air. At $300 dollar surely this is more of a decorative gadget than the start of a new electrical revolution? The key development company is Witricity a Boston based company that is leasing the technology to an array of manufacturers across a spectrum of applications including TV, mobiles and cars. They announced a partnership with OSRAM in 2011 and actually launched a luminaire at Lighting World in the US. Again, no sign of a lighting range to follow this up.
However, Witricity is a company that is in increasing demand and the rate of know-how sharing is gathering a pace. With developments launching across all electronic sectors it seems inevitable that we are about to see a new technology age and soon. In my humble opinion we will all be using wireless power in the next few years. The arrival of the LED is perfectly timed to join this low energy revolution too.
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