Apple investigating 'realistic' wireless charging technology

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
A new patent application reveals Apple's interest in a "realistic and practical approach" to wireless power, providing over-the-air electricity to low-power devices within a distance of one meter.

Patent


Apple's interest in wireless charging technology was detailed in a new patent application published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Wireless Power Utilization in a Local Computing Environment," it describes a system that would rely on "near-field magnetic resonance" to provide power to nearby devices.

Apple's filing notes that transferring power wirelessly has historically been successful only in fairly limited applications. Specifically, the technology requires a power source and receiver located very close to each other.

This method may be acceptable for devices that require a very small amount of electricity. But Apple says this process is not acceptable for devices that require between a few watts to hundreds of watts.

However, Apple noted that electricity can be transferred from a power source to a receiver within a "near field," or a distance a few times larger than both objects involved in the transfer. In most scenarios, this near field would be about a meter large.

"In this way, a realistic and practical approach to wireless transferring useable amounts of power over distances suitable for limited applications can be realized," the filing reads.

Patent


By adopting wireless charging technology, Apple could minimize or eliminate what it referred to as "unwieldy" existing chargers that must be plugged into the wall.

Apple's system goes one step further than the near field, and aims to improve efficiency when transferring electricity wirelessly. It would also allow a number of peripheral devices to be charged wirelessly within the near field, thanks to "cooperation" between them.

Apple's charging accessory would be able to provide electricity to a number of devices located within the near field, or "virtual charging area." Low-power devices cited by Apple include a mouse and keyboard.

The power supply transmitter could be a stand-alone device, or it could be embedded in an existing device such as a desktop or notebook computer. The transmitter could also be portable, such as a dongle that could be connected to a legacy device via a port like USB.

Peripheral devices would need to be tuned to the appropriate frequency. This would allow them to receive power from the near-field magnetic resonance (or NFMR) power supply.

"The device being brought into the range of the NFMR power supply can communicate its initial presence using a standard communication protocol such as WiFi or Bluetooth," the application reads. "However, once incorporated into the resonance circuit, the device can use a communication back channel."

Apple's application also describes the use of a "re-resonator" that would allow electricity to be wirelessly shared between multiple accessories. In one example, a Mac desktop may not be able to adequately provide power to a wireless mouse because of an obstacle interfering with the connection between the two devices.

"In this case, (the) keyboard can act as a re-resonator such that a portion of the power delivered to (the) keyboard from the NFMR power supply can be passed on by way of a re-resonator transmission unit," the filing states.

Apple's patent filing for a wireless charging system, published this week by the USPTO, was first filed by the company in November of 2010. The proposed invention is credited to Michael F. Culbert, Brett. C. Bilbrey, David I. Simon, and Peter M. Arnold.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    I'd love to be able to charge my devices wirelessly along with my MBP.
  • Reply 2 of 40
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,428member
    I've been predicting this ever since I read about MIT's work in this field on the Ars web site.
  • Reply 3 of 40
    Cool. So I could charge my MBP using the "charger" inside my MBP and, uhm...


    Joking. ;-)
  • Reply 4 of 40
    Apple has been investigating this possibility for years. I remember back about the time when the 12" PowerBook came out there were reports about Apple researching how to do this. It would be awesome to have this capability.
  • Reply 5 of 40
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,428member
    Cool. So I could charge my MBP using the "charger" inside my MBP and, uhm...
    Joking. ;-)

    You maybe joking but those idiots that create hydrogen (by electrolysis powered from their car batteries) to help get better mileage in their pick up trucks would believe it!
  • Reply 6 of 40
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,428member
    ifij775 wrote: »
    I'd love to be able to charge my devices wirelessly along with my MBP.

    The beauty is when Apple get this all working it will be so seamless and automatic we won't even have to think about it. I for one will place my rechargeable batteries and recharging units in the trash can and open a bottle of very old single malt on the day I install such a set up :smokey:

    Edit: Oops ... Of course I will dispose of the stuff correctly, driving them to the hazardous waste disposal place in town. Then open the Scotch.
  • Reply 7 of 40


    Sweet, wish this would come to market sooner rather than later.  It'd be awesome just to place my iPhone next to my iMac and it charge on it's own.  Or in my vehicle.

  • Reply 8 of 40
    z3r0z3r0 Posts: 238member


    'realistic' wireless charging technology


     


    So the trick is to avoid wireless electrocution image

  • Reply 9 of 40
    This sounds interesting and all if it in fact sees the light of day. In the meantime, I'd be in favour of Apple tastefully building a dock into the wired extended keyboard, but that's just me.
  • Reply 10 of 40
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    The thing I find amusing about all the "wireless power" solutions going around lately is that they all use giant magnetic fields to achieve it, when back in the early days of computing everyone was certain that these same fields were going to kill us all and make us get cancer.

    I worked in a computer lab in the mid 1980's and we had expensive "magnetic field inverters" placed all over the lab, one by each computer so that the magnetic fields generated by the computers (which apparently were rotating the "wrong" way), could be turned inside out and thus "neutralised."

    All total poppycock of course, but we spent several hundred dollars a piece for those inverters and people would leave the lab when they failed so as to protect themselves from the evil, untamed magnetic fields in the lab.

    The parallels between this and the current situation with cell phone radiation is interesting too. Apparently giant magnetic fields going through your body are fine now but cell radiation will now give you the same cancer the 1980's computers couldn't manage to.

    I wonder if people will still be terrified of cell phone radiation ten years from now or if it will be another new thing instead?
  • Reply 11 of 40
    Those talking about charging devices might want to dial back the cheering. They are talking about low power devices. So basically your computer charging your wireless keyboard, mouse and trackpad. NOT something like an iPhone, iPad etc. that is still way off to perhaps never
  • Reply 12 of 40


    Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

    Those talking about charging devices might want to dial back the cheering. They are talking about low power devices. So basically your computer charging your wireless keyboard, mouse and trackpad. NOT something like an iPhone, iPad etc. that is still way off to perhaps never


     


    They're already powering TVs wirelessly. "Never" is a silly word in tech.

  • Reply 13 of 40

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by z3r0 View Post


    'realistic' wireless charging technology


     


    So the trick is to avoid wireless electrocution image



     


    yes... all I could think of was a tesla coil


     


  • Reply 14 of 40
    Don't see this happening any time soon. In order not to waste electricity the transmitter would have to know where the receiver is and transmit the current directly too it. This isn't a wireless router.
  • Reply 15 of 40
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,428member
    bdkennedy1 wrote: »
    Don't see this happening any time soon. In order not to waste electricity the transmitter would have to know where the receiver is and transmit the current directly too it. This isn't a wireless router.

    You should read about the MIT development on this, they pretty much solved that issue and many others from what we were taught in physics lessons decades ago. I believe the guys behind this company are MIT alumni

    http://www.witricity.com/pages/faq.html
  • Reply 16 of 40
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member


    Just a patent among thousands. Interesting to explore, though.


     


    You know what’s more “unwieldy” than existing chargers? Wireless charging bricks! Sounds like this would be no exception: longer distance, but the same problem that plagues current wireless charging system: instead of a cable and a charger brick... wireless systems use a cable and a BIGGER brick! (Or pad etc.)


     


    Would be neat to have by your couch or desk or someplace you often sit—even if it was an optional secondary charging method, and not the main method used all the time (and thus carried around).

  • Reply 17 of 40
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    ifij775 wrote: »
    I'd love to be able to charge my devices wirelessly along with my MBP.

    This is all about low power devices. Note the stress on realistic!
  • Reply 18 of 40
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheOtherGeoff View Post


     


    yes... all I could think of was a tesla coil


     




    NO KIdding.  The thing that raises my concern is with the speculation with this potentially causing cancer.  Some people think that cell phones can cause cancer, and that's not transmitting the ability to charge a battery.  I'm just wondering if this is really a good method for charging a battery.


     


    What technology Apple was also working on is the motion causing the battery to trickle charge, much like a Rolex watch. THAT would be cool if they could make it where enough movement of the mobile device would create enough trickle charge to keep longer battery life.  I could see that for smartphones since we walk a lot potentially creating enough movement throughout the day to maybe accomplish this.


     


    WIreless charging, to me, seems more like a great demo type technology, but practically not worth it.  We still have to plug something into the wall and with wireless charging, it would seem that whatever we plug into the wall will be significantly larger than the iPhone plug, which is pretty darned small.

  • Reply 19 of 40

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post



    The thing I find amusing about all the "wireless power" solutions going around lately is that they all use giant magnetic fields to achieve it, when back in the early days of computing everyone was certain that these same fields were going to kill us all and make us get cancer.

    I worked in a computer lab in the mid 1980's and we had expensive "magnetic field inverters" placed all over the lab, one by each computer so that the magnetic fields generated by the computers (which apparently were rotating the "wrong" way), could be turned inside out and thus "neutralised."

    All total poppycock of course, but we spent several hundred dollars a piece for those inverters and people would leave the lab when they failed so as to protect themselves from the evil, untamed magnetic fields in the lab.

    The parallels between this and the current situation with cell phone radiation is interesting too. Apparently giant magnetic fields going through your body are fine now but cell radiation will now give you the same cancer the 1980's computers couldn't manage to.

    I wonder if people will still be terrified of cell phone radiation ten years from now or if it will be another new thing instead?




    Good thing cancer is a thing of the past indeed. It would have been a shame to lose someone as talented as SJ from such an avoidable fate.

  • Reply 20 of 40
    I have to see that in action.

    Hello Tesla...
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