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A New Wireless Power Transmission Sheet 126

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the electric-blanket dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Several companies have started to sell power 'pads' that can charge your cellphone when you put it on the pad's surface. But these silicon-based pads are expensive — and relatively 'specialized.' Now, Japanese researchers have built a plastic sheet which could power all the devices placed close to it. So far, this 4-layer sheet, which uses printed organic transistors and plastic MEMS switches, can deliver up to 40 watts of power — enough for some laptops. The technology is apparently efficient and inexpensive to produce. But as the devices to recharge will need to incorporate a special receiver, don't expect to see these plastic power sheets on sale before several years."
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A New Wireless Power Transmission Sheet

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  • I really do have a large mess of cables everywhere (desk, house, around my bed, etc.) and I'd love this. It would be great to get rid of these.
  • How many laptops are there that use 40 watts? I don't know of any, thats a little over 2 Amps at 18 volts, i guess they exist.

    Still, sounds interesting but as always its going to take some massive manufacturer to incorporate it for it to take off. Probably Sony :)

    Monkeyboi
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Do you really want Sony powering your laptop?
    • It could be enough if its a night-time charger for laptops. Set the laptop down before you go to bed, pick it up and haul it with you in the morning...
    • Re:40 watts? (Score:4, Informative)

      by mobby_6kl (668092) on Monday April 30, 2007 @02:46PM (#18931035)
      My laptop's PSU is rated 2.7 A at 18.5 Volts, and that must be with a good safety margin. Then agian, it's an almost six-year-old, 600Mhz P!!!-M machine, with 3D Rage Pro for video and an 11" screen.

      Mordern laptops, judging by the replacement PSUs available, seem to fall between 65-100W, although one Acer unit is rated at 135W.
      • Mordern laptops
        Are those ones used by the Ringwraiths when they are out of the office?

        Seriously though, 40W input to charge a battery doesn't necessarily have anything to do with 40W consumption of the CPU/GPU/monitor combo, right? Running directly off the supply would be problematic, but charging the battery seems like it would still be possible, no?
    • by argent (18001)
      Your typical universal laptop adapter is at least 70 watts: quick googling gets me Targus adapters at 70, 75, 90, and 120W. The power supply on my Macbook is 85W, and the old iBook PS was 65W.
  • i remember this (Score:4, Informative)

    by brunascle (994197) on Monday April 30, 2007 @01:57PM (#18930113)
    i remember this [technologyreview.com]. good to see it's making its way to the market.
  • by TBone (5692) on Monday April 30, 2007 @02:04PM (#18930241) Homepage

    Just like every Chinese fab is making electronics accessories for laptops and cell phones and such, expect that, if these things get cheap enough, we'll start seeing adapters to clip onto the bottom of phones that will take power from the pad.

    Shortly after that, expect to start seeing universal adaptor kits at Radio Shack with a switch-selector voltage output, and 87 plugs, to connect to a generic charger. Maybe a charger base with 3 outputs.

    The application for such a pad is MUCH larger than the article implies. It won't require manufacturers to integrate such receivers until well after their acceptance, which will drive down the price per unit to incorporate them into devices.

    • by FroBugg (24957)
      So instead of plugging my phone into a wall, I can plug my phone into a box that I set on top of a table that's plugged into a wall.

      Yeah, I want to pay to be able to do that.
      • by TBone (5692)

        It's all about the wall wart consolidation.

        Think about how little circuitry is involved in something like this. It would be almost trivial to make a charging block with various adapters on it to let you run 1, 2, 4 small-load devices off of it...say, your router, desk phone, some number of device chargers, etc. All of them would charge off of a single station with one plug.

        If you had 3 power strips under your desk simply for the reason of not being able to plug all teh transformers into a single one, yo

      • but what if the table charged not only your phone, but your laptop, gps, mp3 player, portable game system, etc, regardless of make, model?
      • So instead of plugging my phone into a wall, I can plug my phone into a box that I set on top of a table that's plugged into a wall.

        Not being a real electronics geek, I can only guess at this, but I think it wouldn't be "plugging your phone into a box" but "plugging a small box into your phone." Take a look at the one-use rapid phone chargers on the market now. The adapter for this wireless charger would be about the same size, maybe even smaller since it doesn't need to carry an actual battery.

    • if these things get cheap enough, we'll start seeing adapters to clip onto the bottom of phones that will take power from the pad.

      Agreed, and 'cheap enough' doesn't really matter -- if the chargers enter the market significantly at any price, we'll see this happen.

      Shortly after that, expect to start seeing universal adaptor kits at Radio Shack with a switch-selector voltage output

      I don't think Radioshack, or any other retailer, would carry a product capable of frying so many consumer appliances. One stand

      • I don't think Radioshack, or any other retailer, would carry a product capable of frying so many consumer appliances.
        They already do. [radioshack.com]
        • Sure, but you've got to plug each device in with a specific adaptor plug. Wireless charging would greatly increase the chance of accidentally frying your appliance(s).
          • Sure, but you've got to plug each device in with a specific adaptor plug. Wireless charging would greatly increase the chance of accidentally frying your appliance(s).

            Hardly:

            The power receiver would have to do a bit of voltage conversion and regulation anyhow. No reason it can't do overvoltage protection at the same time.

            As to different power transmitter bases: Different brands would likely use different technologies and couple less efficiently, if at all, to receivers designed for a different version. Y
            • The power receiver would have to do a bit of voltage conversion and regulation anyhow. No reason it can't do overvoltage protection at the same time.

              So why bother having a variable-output base if the receiver needs to convert anyway? Plus, what if you toss multiple devices on the pad at the same time, each with different power requirements? This is the reason I'd want one of these, to eliminate multiple chargers.

              The way I look at it, it's like establishing a standard for wallwarts. Wouldn't it make more

              • by TBone (5692)

                So why bother having a variable-output base if the receiver needs to convert anyway? Plus, what if you toss multiple devices on the pad at the same time, each with different power requirements? This is the reason I'd want one of these, to eliminate multiple chargers.

                Baby steps. You aren't gonna be able to drop your devices on the pad tomorrow. You could, assuming the market is smart enough, go out and buy a wired adapter that's powers off the pad tomorrow. It's no less convenient than what you get toda

              • China is already going down this path:
                http://english.people.com.cn/200612/19/eng20061219 _334047.html [people.com.cn]
              • The power receiver would have to do a bit of voltage conversion and regulation anyhow. No reason it can't do overvoltage protection at the same time.

                So why bother having a variable-output base if the receiver needs to convert anyway? Plus, what if you toss multiple devices on the pad at the same time, each with different power requirements? This is the reason I'd want one of these, to eliminate multiple chargers.


                Where did it say the output was variable?

                The only thing I saw in TFA was that the power was swi
                • Where did it say the output was variable?
                  Please read the thread, OP talked about variable output bases being sold at RS sometime in the future, which is what we were discussing. I believe that variable-output is asking for problems, instead we'll see input adaptors for appliances to pull off a standardized supply in the long run.
  • How Efficient? (Score:5, Informative)

    by FroBugg (24957) on Monday April 30, 2007 @02:06PM (#18930287) Homepage
    The article gives some efficiency numbers, but doesn't explain exactly what they're talking about.

    The researchers say the transmission of power happens with 81.4% efficiency -- compared to 93% efficiency in the wired grid network as a whole -- with a "quite low" level of leaked electromagnetic radiation.


    Now, I may be wrong, but I believe that 93% is the efficiency of electricity being generated at the power plant and then sent to you, however many miles away. So it's not an either-or thing, it's an extra loss. Instead of losing 7% of the generated electricity, you lose nearly 25%. This is ridiculous compared to the effort of just plugging your damn devices in.
    • by jfengel (409917)
      But I don't think it's a major draw of power overall. If it's only 40 watts, it's going to be a much smaller power drain than the refrigerator/washer/air conditioner/computer. And all it's doing is charging cell phones or mp3 players, it would be on for only a few hours a day, at most.

      It is throwing away power, but you'd almost certainly save more energy by proper insulation, getting over your hatred of compact fluorescent light bulbs, buying a new (and more efficient) water heater, etc. It seems penny-w
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Big_Breaker (190457)
        Wall warts are probably worse for wasting energy, especially since they stay plugged into the wall even when the gadget is not recharging. That burns energy 24/7.

        One pad - even with transmission losses - is probably better than the typical 3-6 wall wart chargers in use at a given time.
        • by ozbird (127571)
          Wall warts are probably worse for wasting energy, especially since they stay plugged into the wall even when the gadget is not recharging. That burns energy 24/7.

          So unplug it/switch it off when you're not using it. Sheesh.
        • by egomaniac (105476)
          You also need to account for the energy required to actually create the wall warts, versus the energy required to create this pad. My bet is that six or seven wall warts, with all of the petroleum-derived plastic and metal wiring, required vastly more energy to create than is lost to a few years of pad inefficiency.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        And all it's doing is charging cell phones or mp3 players, it would be on for only a few hours a day, at most.

        Rubbish. Its sole purpose for existence is the convenience/laziness of not having to plug your device in. Do you seriously think anyone lazy enough to want such a charger will bother to turn it off? And "standby" mode is largely useless in cheap electronic goods from an environmental perspective.

        Additionally, it is only 40 watts now. Who's to say it won't be capable of, say, 1000 Watts in a few years time? Wireless kettle/microwave, anyone?

        • by bodan (619290)
          It has the potential to be better at turning itself off when not in use, though; the simple fact that it'll be used for many things means it can afford a bit more intelligence.

          The fact that it's supposed to be "universal" means there will be a single power-drain. (Consider that all those lazy users now have many wall-warts plugged in all the time.)
        • I would assume that any such device worth buying will have a mechanism for sensing chargeable devices and turning itself on automatically. It could be as simple as a pressure sensor to know that something it sitting on top or as complicated as a Bluetooth signal.

          In any event, this doesn't seem all that different than current solutions involving a device-specific dock, except that there's no physical contact between connectors. I think we're all used to cordless house phones, where much attention has been pa
        • Get off your high horse. You assume convenience and laziness are tied together. A falacy if I've ever heard one. Besides, you missed an obvious benefit. Mechanical parts break due to wear and tear (plugging the charge into your phone/PDA/whatever). If you just place the phone on the pad to charge it, that's one less area to worry about mechanical failure.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Sandbags (964742)
          First, the pad only "uses" electricity when there is a device inside of it's field of effect. There's no "sleep mode" it just doesn't use any mower when nothing is near it. The magnetic field generated can easily sense the presence or lack of a device and power on only when necessary.

          Second, if you understood the technology, you would know there will never be a 1000 watt version. Magnetic field science works on a multiple of squares system. To generate 80 watts instead of 40 takes a field 4 times larger
          • First, the pad only "uses" electricity when there is a device inside of it's field of effect. There's no "sleep mode" it just doesn't use any mower when nothing is near it. The magnetic field generated can easily sense the presence or lack of a device and power on only when necessary.

            So... how does it generate a magnetic field without using any electricity? Something must power the sensor, otherwise it would not be able to "sense". And there you have the classic "standby" problem of consumer electronics - it is much cheaper for the manufacturer to leave everything "running hot" than increase the cost and complexity of the device by building in a proper low-power standby mode.

            Second, if you understood the technology, you would know there will never be a 1000 watt version. Magnetic field science works on a multiple of squares system. To generate 80 watts instead of 40 takes a field 4 times larger. to go to 160 watts requires 16 times as much field density. To produce induction coils capable of generating a field large enough to charge large devices, or a field strong enough to charge high voltage devices is prohibitively expensive.

            I am no electronics expert - I'll leave you to argue the maths with the other reply to your post who believes y

        • Or maybe the fact that you don't need a different and incompatible wall wart for every device you own? The benefits from wide adoption of this device would be very significant. Or do you think millions of wall warts in landfills is a good thing?

          Must everything be an opportunity for someone to show how superior he is?

    • This is ridiculous compared to the effort of just plugging your damn devices in.

      Indeed. Why not put effort into standardizing power connectors (magnetic, or did Apple manage to patent that?). I'm all for labor-saving devices, but this is absurd.

      A product which started out as a joke, which someone didn't get... Hmmm, wireless phones, wireless networks, how about wireless power! Ha!

      The whole point about wireless is mobility - with this you still have to put the device in a particular place.

    • by tgeller (10260)
      I wrote the story for Nature, and you're absolutely right. The problem I had was that I couldn't find figures on power efficiency through short (under 2 meters) wired connections -- probably because it's damn near 100%, right? My hope was that the comparison I provided would give *some* metric that would be more understandable to the average reader. I hope it wasn't misleading, but that's always the writer's worry.

      --Tom Geller
      http://www.tomgeller.com/ [tomgeller.com]
    • How about we make a contact-free system that puts big bright lights around the room and charges everything via "solar" panels? Sure, effeiciency will be low, and you'll have to wear "sun" glasses or be blinded, but hey, you won't have to plug them in. Think of the savings in time!

      </sarcasm>
  • Sure it's cool to charge your gadgets with a little plastic pad, but I contend it's more fun with a Tesla coil [wikipedia.org]
  • Another Roland article. Time to rack up more advertising hits....

    Please tag as 'ohnoitsroland' -- thank you :)
  • If you see this kind of message in your inbox a few years down the road, don't say I didn't warn you:

    Subject: L4ST ALL N1GHT!!!

    Tierd halfway thru? Use magik pads to 1ncrease your p0t3ncy! Recharg4e w1irelessly!!

    - RG>
  • Why don't we power cars like this? I can see how 'charging' stations (or, I guess, tesla coils) can be installed every mile or so and be used to charge electric cars, making it so that recharging our electric cars becomes rare. I see this as an option to one's electric bill. It certainly would make owning an electric car a lot more practical, and more enviro-friendly. Yes I understand the power has to come from somewhere, but chances are the electricity is coming from, at least partially, renewable source
    • the power has to come from somewhere

      roads made from solar panels, maybe?
    • by digitrev (989335)
      Where were you when I had mod points? This is actually an incredible idea. To add to it, charge people based on the mileage of their cars. Or keep a mini-computer inside it to keep track of how much energy it received over time. However, it'd take decades to get it working. And since people are so short-term based, I have very little hope in anything like this happening.
  • This is a great idea. But it needs to be standardized, so everything recharges from any pad. Otherwise we'll be back in wall transformer hell. This one is about the third scheme for doing this, and so far, they're incompatible.

    If it's done totally wrong, there will be an encrypted handshake between the pad and the device receiving power, so only authorized devices can recharge. Like printer ink cartridges.

    • Agreed - there is an obvious need for standardization.

      Right now the closest thing to standardization is mini USB cable. When I was buying my latest iPAQ, I specifically wanted the one with mini USB power hole. I can now carry 1 2.5" external disk + iPAQ and just one cable.

      In the world of mobiles, Nokia was always the most "charger friendly". Unfortunately, after many years they've changed it...
      • My Motorola uses mini USB for power. I understand that is fairly common for their other models too.
  • a guy named Tesla. you have a half-million volts running around the place, it doesn't take much of an antenna for induced voltage to hot up any circuit in the area.

    not to mention, you can't pull big-ass arcs with a pencil off anything metal when you're near that little charge-o-pad, can you?

    entertainment worth a few semiconductor junctions ;)
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Monday April 30, 2007 @02:42PM (#18930985)
    Folks, *think*. People worry about microwave ovens leaking milliwatts.

    Here someone is suggesting letting free many watts.

    Just ain't going to ever be approved.

    It doesn't take much power, under a watt, to make instant cataracts. Ask any old radar operator.

    • by pclminion (145572)
      Have you never heard of a "phased array?" It is easy to cause an oscillating field to appear in a relatively small region of space. To allow a significant amount of field to leak would be stupid from an efficiency standpoint, not just a health standpoint.
      • >Have you never heard of a "phased array?"

        Yes I have. Please explain how that has anything to do with this subject.

        We're talking about waves in the 10cm range. A phased array for this frequency range would be a whole lot larger than a laptop, and the focusing effects are only effective several wavelengths from the array. You'd have to make the whole room's ceiling one big phased array in order to deliver a few watts to a laptop-sized area. And the sidelobes would still be a couple factors of ten

  • They could have used an inductive coil to transfer energy. It's much cheaper! An electric toothbrush I had
    used this technoilogy. I'm also designing a charge pad for a robot I am designing, simple inductive
    connection. it seems like some engineers don't understand AC electricity or the work that Nikola Tesla did.
    No need for expensive pads!
  • Wireless Keyboards, Mice, Monitors, Printers all powered from the middle of a chunk of wood. I'd buy that.
  • My toothbrush does this already...
  • There is an American company, Powercast [powercastco.com], which is claiming to already have FCC approval for wireless power transmission.
  • If everything needs to be connected to a special reciever for the pad to work, then what's the point of the pad? The only way such a "Transmission Sheet" would be logical is if it could power/recharge appliances SANS adapter.

    So what if you could power a laptop? Here's the current method of powering a laptop versus their way:

    Current Method:
    1) Plug AC adapter into appliance.
    *OR*
    1) Plug appliance directly into wall.

    Proposed Method:
    1) Plug appliance into adapter.
    2) Place appliance onto pad.
    3) Plug AC adapter in
  • Hey, folks -- long-time Slashdotter here (check out my 1337 usernumber :) ), and full-time freelance writer. I don't have any inside information about the invention, just the original paper and a FAQ that the developers provided me. And of course I don't speak for Nature or the inventors. But I'm happy to respond to anyone who replies here.

    --Tom Geller
        http://www.tomgeller.com/ [tomgeller.com]
  • But as the devices to recharge will need to incorporate a special receiver, don't expect to see these plastic power sheets on sale before several years.
    Or you could create after-market batteries with integrated wireless power receivers.

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