Apple 'shake to charge' technology may one day power iPhones, iPods

in General Discussion edited January 2014
A new Apple patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday illustrates the company's take on powering portable electronic devices with an electromagnetic induction system, or "shake to charge."

Electronic Induction
Source: USPTO

Electromagnetic induction, or the production of electric current in a conductive element as it moves through a magnetic field, has been leveraged to generate power for a number of so-called "shake to charge" or "batteryless" consumer products.

Technology based on the phenomenon has been used for years to power small, power efficient devices such as flashlights and radios. To produce enough electric current, these systems usually use a thick coil of copper wire as the conductor, adding to the product's size.

Apple's invention proposes the use of printed coils with one or more moveable magnets, a reversal of the traditional configuration in which the heavy copper coil moves across a stationary magnet. The magnets in Apple's system move alongside a circuit board holding printed coils to create an "electromotive force," or voltage, across said coils which can be used to generate power.

Key to the system's functionality is the creation of the printed coils, which Apple claims can be formed using any technique for printing modern circuit boards. As an example, printed coils can be formed by "depositing copper on a substrate to form traces in the shape of coils" or "selectively etching copper from a substrate" to achieve the same effect.

Printed Coil
Illustration of printed coil formation.

In order to achieve required power levels, the circuit board can contain multiple layers onto which the printed coils are formed. The multitude of layers are then coupled together using vias, or electrical connectors, to create a coil array. Apple notes that in one embodiment the coil array can be formed from stacks of circuit boards.

A magnet or set of magnets are allowed to move freely alongside the circuit boards to generate an electromotive force across the coils. In one embodiment, the invention calls for a housing to guide the magnets, in which a lubricant is introduced to facilitate free movement.

Single Magnet

As the magnets move across the printed coils, either by a user shaking the device or simply by moving it through normal use, electric current is produced. After flowing through power conditioning circuitry, the generated electric current is stored in either a large capacitor or battery that is connected to a control circuit.

The entire unit can be mounted in a portable device, with the application's language specifically noting Apple's iPod and iPhone as two possible candidates. Currently, the two products' energy requirements are likely too great for an electromagnet induction system, meaning they will continue to source their power from wall outlets and computers. The electronic components inside Apple's iDevices are becoming more efficient, however, and might one day reach a point where such a system can provide enough energy for daily use.

While it is unclear if Apple will choose to use the technology to power future products, the invention serves as an indicator that the company is actively looking for ways to make its electronic devices truly wireless.


  • Reply 1 of 13
    This is how my Seiko watch is charged ...

    But, good incentive to encourage jogging, nevertheless ... (or other indoor activities)
  • Reply 2 of 13
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member

    Perfect for iPod Nano or iWatch. :)

  • Reply 3 of 13
    So in the future, I might be placing my iPhone on the washing machine to charge it?
  • Reply 4 of 13

    Even if this is not enough to fully charge an iPhone today, it could be used to augment the battery today.  Maybe get another hour or to between wall charges.

  • Reply 5 of 13
    "But, good incentive to encourage jogging, nevertheless ... (or other indoor activities)"

    Care to elaborate on that last part? :)
  • Reply 6 of 13
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,758member
    This plus an Apple approach to MIT's WiTricity and we'd be pretty well covered. (spare me the Tesller lecture or it doesn't work yada yada yada :
  • Reply 7 of 13

    I can imagine a newspaper headline in a couple of years time... "Hot Stud Sues Apple" - because of an overheating battery in an iPhone which was in the back pocket of his jeans, causing a scorched ass whilst having sex!

  • Reply 8 of 13
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,385member
    They have those watch winders that might able to be used for this. :-)
  • Reply 9 of 13
    parsec wrote: »
    "But, good incentive to encourage jogging, nevertheless ... (or other indoor activities)"
    Care to elaborate on that last part? :)

    No sorry, circumlocuting is not even possible (a ban may fall on me ...).

    It is open to everyone interpretation, I keep mine private.
  • Reply 10 of 13
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    ajmonline wrote: »
    Even if this is not enough to fully charge an iPhone today, it could be used to augment the battery today.  Maybe get another hour or to between wall charges.

    Sure. But that ignores the downside. It adds bulk and weight to the system. A system big enough to contribute significantly would add far more than Apple would be likely to accept. I'd rather have a thin, light phone than a heavy, bulky, noisy phone that I have to shake all day.

    Besides, if you want to add that extra bulk and weight, you might as well simply increase the battery size.
  • Reply 11 of 13
    I don't know what this thing is for, but I don't think its going to go in Apple's phones.

    Obviously, they are trying to solve battery life and time between charges. I think they are looking at every angle and I doubt that this is the most successful one. I'd guess that they'd make a better battery before giving up that much space on a phone's internals for 20 minutes of extra daily battery life.

    iPad maybe.
  • Reply 12 of 13

    In the future, iDevice owners will have to choose…


    … a fully charged battery… or being able to listen to an entire song…

  • Reply 13 of 13
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member

    Nice.  SO if you have no hands you just strap that sucker to your leg and kick your brother between the legs many times as fast as you can.

Sign In or Register to comment.