Apple invention uses ferrofluids to enhance induction charging performance

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2016
As part of continued research into efficient wireless chargers -- perhaps powerful enough to rival Lightning -- Apple on Tuesday received a patent for an induction charging method that uses ferrofluids to reduce or negate energy loss typical of such systems.




Outlined in Apple's U.S. Patent No. 9,479,007 for an "Induction charging system," published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the method improves energy transmission by disposing a layer of ferrofluids between an inductive unit's transceiver and receiver coils.

Most inductive chargers work on the same principle: induced current. The method involves sending energy from a charging station to a battery powered device through an inductive coupling.

More specifically, an induction coil in the charger -- primary coil -- creates an alternating electromagnetic field, which is converted back into an electrical current by the receiving coil -- secondary coil -- in the mobile device. Apple's own Apple Watch employs a variation of this technology to charge up in a relatively fast and reliable manner.


Source: USPTO


Compared to wired, or direct contact, charging methods, inductive chargers are generally less efficient and require larger internal components to operate. In addition, the sensitive inductive coils must be aligned correctly to achieve a good coupling, as poor matings decrease efficiency and could lead to troublesome thermal issues. With Apple Watch, for example, the coupling issue is addressed by disposing magnets in both the charger cable and watch to ensure a decent fit.

Today's invention aims to bypass the pitfalls above by installing a helper layer of ferrofluids in either the charger or portable device.

Ferrofluids are liquids that contain ferromagnetic particles suspended in a carrier fluid, typically water or an organic solvent. The particles are able to move freely within the liquid and, importantly, become magnetized when exposed to a magnetic field, allowing gravitation toward magnetic flux.

Applied adjacent to an induction charging system, a contained ferrofluid layer can greatly increase energy transfer performance by minimizing the effects of coil misalignment. In practice, the ferrofluid is attracted to, and shaped, by generated magnetic flux to a position between the transmit and receive -- primary and secondary -- coils.


Diagram illustrating ferrofluid layer (25) focusing flux (15) between coils (14 and 19).


In some embodiments, the ferrofluid layer can create a bridge between the two coils, which in turn creates a preferential path across which the magnetic flux travels, Apple says. Focusing flux between the two coils mitigates loss due to misalignment, thereby increasing electromagnetic energy transfer efficiency and potentially decreasing charge times.

The document goes on to explain in detail various working embodiments of the present invention.

As with any patent, it is unclear if Apple intends to market a ferrofluid-enhanced inductive charger in a future product. That being said, almost all Apple products could benefit from inductive charging technology, from Apple Watch to iPhone to the latest MacBooks and accessories.

After a successful rollout of wireless charging options from Samsung, Apple users eagerly anticipate the feature to land in a next-generation iPhone. Recent reports suggest an inductive charging iPhone could arrive sooner rather than later, as Apple is reportedly in the process of vetting manufacturers of wireless chips capable of charging its smartphone flagship.

Apple's ferrofluid enhanced inductive charging invention was first filed for in February 2014 and credits Eric S. Jol, Ibuki Kamei and Warren Z. Jones as its inventors.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    irelandireland Posts: 17,386member
    Clever. Notice the iPod classic.
  • Reply 2 of 36
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,025member
    After a successful rollout of wireless charging options from Samsung, 
    "Successful"  =  "Doesn't explode"


    singularityirelandSolijony0nolamacguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 36
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,405member
    Rayz2016 said:
    After a successful rollout of wireless charging options from Samsung, 
    "Successful"  =  "Doesn't explode"


    It's a process...
    Soli
  • Reply 4 of 36
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,405member
    Can someone help me see the efficacy of this entire technology?
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway...
    So, are the economies of space gained by removing the lightning or whatever connector from the equation,
    really not counterbalanced by whatever internal receptors receive and convey the charge?
    Or is the only real difference and benefit, closing that portal to incursion of moisture & dust?
    netmagenolamacguy
  • Reply 5 of 36
    boredumb said:
    Can someone help me see the efficacy of this entire technology?
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway...
    So, are the economies of space gained by removing the lightning or whatever connector from the equation,
    really not counterbalanced by whatever internal receptors receive and convey the charge?
    Or is the only real difference and benefit, closing that portal to incursion of moisture & dust?
    It's also about not having to put a little thingy in a little hole. You just lay your phone down and be happy afterwards. In the new Kia car you put your phone in a little closed box. It's being charged, it's connected to your sound system through Bluetooth and you are not distracted. Nice implementation.
    singularitySoli
  • Reply 6 of 36
    boredumb said:
    Can someone help me see the efficacy of this entire technology?
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway...
    So, are the economies of space gained by removing the lightning or whatever connector from the equation,
    really not counterbalanced by whatever internal receptors receive and convey the charge?
    Or is the only real difference and benefit, closing that portal to incursion of moisture & dust?
    It's also about not having to put a little thingy in a little hole. You just lay your phone down and be happy afterwards. In the new Kia car you put your phone in a little closed box. It's being charged, it's connected to your sound system through Bluetooth and you are not distracted. Nice implementation.
    I dare say that many people are not bothered by putting their little thingies in little holes.   :s  I am not sure if the ports wear out but it does seem like wireless charging might be more durable.  I'll say that after a few months of both plugging in the phone and putting the watch on the charger everynight, I do like the watch way of charging better.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 7 of 36
    iPhone — first water-proofed, now water-filled.
    edited October 2016
  • Reply 8 of 36
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,708member
    boredumb said:
    Can someone help me see the efficacy of this entire technology?
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway...
    So, are the economies of space gained by removing the lightning or whatever connector from the equation,
    really not counterbalanced by whatever internal receptors receive and convey the charge?
    Or is the only real difference and benefit, closing that portal to incursion of moisture & dust?
    I also wonder if anybody has tested the effect of micro-charges on the overall health and lifetime of a battery. What happens if you if you place the phone on a charging mat at say 15% battery charge, leave it on there for 10 minutes, pick it up to make a call for 5 minutes, put it back for 2 minutes, pick it up to do some e-mail. Maybe the battery bounces between 20% and 30% charge all day. Then do this every day. Unless something has changed in battery tech, which I don't think has happened, I see this use pattern seriously degrading the max life of a fully charged battery.
    boredumbjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 36
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 828member
    could lead to troublesome thermal issues.
    This might be a significant understatement. I read this to be flames, fire, explosion, and meltdown.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 36
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,172member
    boredumb said:
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway…
    1) You don't consdier a wireless router wireless because the router has to be plugged in, not to mention the devices which connect to your WiFi network need to be powered at some point?

    2) What power option wouldn't be confined to a radius?
    edited October 2016 nolamacguy
  • Reply 11 of 36
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,172member
    boredumb said:
    Can someone help me see the efficacy of this entire technology?
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway...
    So, are the economies of space gained by removing the lightning or whatever connector from the equation,
    really not counterbalanced by whatever internal receptors receive and convey the charge?
    Or is the only real difference and benefit, closing that portal to incursion of moisture & dust?
    It's also about not having to put a little thingy in a little hole. You just lay your phone down and be happy afterwards. In the new Kia car you put your phone in a little closed box. It's being charged, it's connected to your sound system through Bluetooth and you are not distracted. Nice implementation.
    Adding to that, it's not just about ease of use when setting on a charge or plugging into a cable, but also when picking up. I use a weighed charging stand at home but I still need to use both hands to pick it up because the Lightning connector is a firm connection—yet, that stand is only used for charging, not for data. I was hoping that their Smart Connector (as seen on the iPad Pro) would make it to the iPhone 7 as that would be a great solution for me.
    edited October 2016
  • Reply 12 of 36
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,172member
    mike1 said:
    I also wonder if anybody has tested the effect of micro-charges on the overall health and lifetime of a battery. What happens if you if you place the phone on a charging mat at say 15% battery charge, leave it on there for 10 minutes, pick it up to make a call for 5 minutes, put it back for 2 minutes, pick it up to do some e-mail. Maybe the battery bounces between 20% and 30% charge all day. Then do this every day. Unless something has changed in battery tech, which I don't think has happened, I see this use pattern seriously degrading the max life of a fully charged battery.
    I don't know of any permanent damage that will happen. The cells wear down based on usage, and whether you're using, say, 50% in a day with spot charging in between usage or between charging, it's still one-half of the battery cells being charged and uncharged in a given day. Since Apple uses a battery chemistry that is rated for 1000 charges before the battery holds 80% of its original capacity, that would be 2,000 or nearly 5.5 years before you'd reach that point. You might need to calibrate the battery, but I'm not sold on how effective that rigamarole really is.
  • Reply 13 of 36
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,432member
    boredumb said:
    Can someone help me see the efficacy of this entire technology?
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway...
    So, are the economies of space gained by removing the lightning or whatever connector from the equation,
    really not counterbalanced by whatever internal receptors receive and convey the charge?
    Or is the only real difference and benefit, closing that portal to incursion of moisture & dust?
    It is only a small benefit right now, but after using this method with Apple Watch, you can see the benefits of larger adoption going forward:
    - Just that much easier (small conveniences are still nice).  Just lay onto a mat or holder and walk away.  Magnets line it up for correct contact.  
    - The end of cord is something more substantial (holder, mat), so cords aren't flopping and falling.  Looks neater.
    - The device being charged (e.g. iPhone) will become more reliable, waterproof, etc. Less likely to break the connector, hit cord & pull off table, etc.
    - While current induction tech requires very close proximity & aligned coils, physical contact isn't mandatory, so some small amount of distance for "wireless" charging is possible and we see some early solutions getting a bit of distance (though clearly efficiency goes down per the inverse square law).
    - Technology may start to be built into furniture / surfaces, so the clutter goes down and convenience goes up.

    Important not to get too caught up in the hype though.  The inverse square law for energy dissipation over distance means that only very low level charging can occur any distance (even a few meters) from the source.  Batteries and the ability for a strong charge will remain important for the foreseeable future.  "Safe" fast charging will be more useful than wireless charging.
    mike1boredumb
  • Reply 14 of 36
    mike1 said:
    boredumb said:
    Can someone help me see the efficacy of this entire technology?
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway...
    So, are the economies of space gained by removing the lightning or whatever connector from the equation,
    really not counterbalanced by whatever internal receptors receive and convey the charge?
    Or is the only real difference and benefit, closing that portal to incursion of moisture & dust?
    I also wonder if anybody has tested the effect of micro-charges on the overall health and lifetime of a battery. What happens if you if you place the phone on a charging mat at say 15% battery charge, leave it on there for 10 minutes, pick it up to make a call for 5 minutes, put it back for 2 minutes, pick it up to do some e-mail. Maybe the battery bounces between 20% and 30% charge all day. Then do this every day. Unless something has changed in battery tech, which I don't think has happened, I see this use pattern seriously degrading the max life of a fully charged battery.
    I don't believe lithium batteries suffer any "memory" effect like older rechargeables, so they don't mind frequent, partial charges that would have quickly killed old NiCad batteries.
    baconstang
  • Reply 15 of 36
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,405member
    Soli said:
    boredumb said:
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway…
    1) You don't consdier a wireless router wireless because the router has to be plugged in, not to mention the devices which connect to your WiFi network need to be powered at some point?

    2) What power option wouldn't be confined to a radius?
    1) I don't have to set my laptop on my router - I can roam all around my home with it (or at any McDonald's or Starbucks, etc, whoopee!) effectively extending its convenience beyond any considerations of 'cord'...
    2) effectively, solar - just kidding, 'none' is the answer, which is why I'm asking, why get all excited about inductive charging, when you're still effectively tied to that base?
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 16 of 36
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,708member
      "Safe" fast charging will be more useful than wireless charging.

    Agreed!
    baconstang
  • Reply 17 of 36
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,857member
    Ferrofluids have been around a long time. In the mid 1970's, I designed several speaker drivers using ferrofluids in the magnetic gap where the voice coil is. I wasn't the only one, of course. It's used extensively today. It increases the heat dissipation of the voice coil, and increases efficiency. I hadn't thought of it being used for this purpose, but it makes sense.

    ive never liked wireless charging for anything that has a large battery. For the watch is fine, but for 3,000MWH batteries, it's too inefficient. So far, it's been more of a marketing point than a truly useful technology for phones. Whether this increases coupling enough for it to work really well, is something I can't say. But, it's interesting that Apple is pursuing this course.
    randominternetpersonbaconstang
  • Reply 18 of 36
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,857member

    brucemc said:
    boredumb said:
    Can someone help me see the efficacy of this entire technology?
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway...
    So, are the economies of space gained by removing the lightning or whatever connector from the equation,
    really not counterbalanced by whatever internal receptors receive and convey the charge?
    Or is the only real difference and benefit, closing that portal to incursion of moisture & dust?
    It is only a small benefit right now, but after using this method with Apple Watch, you can see the benefits of larger adoption going forward:
    - Just that much easier (small conveniences are still nice).  Just lay onto a mat or holder and walk away.  Magnets line it up for correct contact.  
    - The end of cord is something more substantial (holder, mat), so cords aren't flopping and falling.  Looks neater.
    - The device being charged (e.g. iPhone) will become more reliable, waterproof, etc. Less likely to break the connector, hit cord & pull off table, etc.
    - While current induction tech requires very close proximity & aligned coils, physical contact isn't mandatory, so some small amount of distance for "wireless" charging is possible and we see some early solutions getting a bit of distance (though clearly efficiency goes down per the inverse square law).
    - Technology may start to be built into furniture / surfaces, so the clutter goes down and convenience goes up.

    Important not to get too caught up in the hype though.  The inverse square law for energy dissipation over distance means that only very low level charging can occur any distance (even a few meters) from the source.  Batteries and the ability for a strong charge will remain important for the foreseeable future.  "Safe" fast charging will be more useful than wireless charging.
    You're right about the square law, but maybe not. It depends on how it's done. While free dissipation will obey the square law, the energy radiation can be focused. It looks as though this technology helps with that, as well as with the alignment problem, by providing a path for the energy to flow more directly. These devices are in direct contact, after all, so there isn't much of that diffusion taking place anyway. If we held the charger an inch away, much dissipation would occur, and the losses would be tremendous.
    edited October 2016
  • Reply 19 of 36
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,405member

    Soli said:
    mike1 said:
    I also wonder if anybody has tested the effect of micro-charges on the overall health and lifetime of a battery. What happens if you if you place the phone on a charging mat at say 15% battery charge, leave it on there for 10 minutes, pick it up to make a call for 5 minutes, put it back for 2 minutes, pick it up to do some e-mail. Maybe the battery bounces between 20% and 30% charge all day. Then do this every day. Unless something has changed in battery tech, which I don't think has happened, I see this use pattern seriously degrading the max life of a fully charged battery.
    I don't know of any permanent damage that will happen. The cells wear down based on usage, and whether you're using, say, 50% in a day with spot charging in between usage or between charging, it's still one-half of the battery cells being charged and uncharged in a given day. Since Apple uses a battery chemistry that is rated for 1000 charges before the battery holds 80% of its original capacity, that would be 2,000 or nearly 5.5 years before you'd reach that point. You might need to calibrate the battery, but I'm not sold on how effective that rigamarole really is.
    I still think Mike1's point may have validity.  Halfway charging your device one time, 75% the next, 40% the next, may turn out to be different from 2% then 8% then 3% etc.  Apple's battery care standards don't really address that particular sort of partial-cycle charging.  If anyone knows of actual studies that do address it, I'd very much appreciate being directed to them...
    So much to learn, so little ability to...uh...what was I saying?
  • Reply 20 of 36
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,172member
    boredumb said:
    Soli said:
    boredumb said:
    As long as the unit you set your device on has to be plugged in, you aren't really "wireless",
    and you're still confined to a certain radius based on that cord length anyway…
    1) You don't consdier a wireless router wireless because the router has to be plugged in, not to mention the devices which connect to your WiFi network need to be powered at some point?

    2) What power option wouldn't be confined to a radius?
    1) I don't have to set my laptop on my router - I can roam all around my home with it (or at any McDonald's or Starbucks, etc, whoopee!) effectively extending its convenience beyond any considerations of 'cord'...
    2) effectively, solar - just kidding, 'none' is the answer, which is why I'm asking, why get all excited about inductive charging, when you're still effectively tied to that base?
    But there's still a wired somewhere, which was your concern and your reason for writing off all the benefits of not having to use a physical plug to charge. Solar has a radius, too.
    edited October 2016
Sign In or Register to comment.