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Emerging Technologies Wireless Energy

In: Business and Management

Submitted By nuraydon
Words 1166
Pages 5
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Wireless Energy Transfer – An Overview

Once confined to the realm of fiction, the wireless transmission of energy has become a reality in the past decade as part of a broader and already-flourishing trend of wireless technology. As the proliferation of personal and portable electronic devices continues to inundate the market, the need for convenient and efficient ways to power them has become ever more intensified. This need arises from the fact that energy transfer through copper wires represents a substantial financial encumbrance and imposes mobility limitations. Importantly, traditional energy transfer represents a drain on both consumers and businesses. Wireless energy has emerged as a popular solution among.

Wireless energy transfer (WET) is the “transmission of electrical energy from a power source to an electrical load without the use of interconnecting manmade conductors (i.e., wires)”. Much of the technology exploited in the current (and still-early) implementation of WET has precursors in 19th century research by engineering visionaries such as Nikola Tesla. Broadly, there are two categories of WET: far-field (FFET) and near-field energy transfer (NFET). As the grand majority of research and development lies with NFET, FFET will not be discussed. Among the reasons underlying the preference for NFET is that it is safer and incurs less energy loss during energy transmission than FFET. NFET is based on electromagnetic induction and relies on one of two non-radiative methods: inductive coupling and resonant inductive coupling. In inductive coupling, running an electric current through one coil induces an electric current in a second coil with which it is in physical contact. In resonant inductive coupling by contrast, voltage is only induced between two coils that are tuned to resonate at the same frequency; effectively, energy is transferred through a specific channel between two resonators. There is actual physical distance between the two coils.

Business Response to WET and Early Adopters of NFET

At present, there are many companies who are concretely implicated in developing WET technology. There is also a spirit of openness in development, with many early adopters offering demo kits of their implementation of WET in order to make their technology accessible for prototyping by others. However, as with the development cycles of other nascent technologies, the early adopters have thrown support to one of two dueling formats of NFET (although there are some companies who have invested in both formats). Currently, there are over 120 companies that form the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), an organization expressly founded in 2008 by eight initial partners to both refine inductive coupling technology and to establish its standardized specification (entitled “Qi”). The consortium was designed to be inclusive; hence, the bulk of its membership is formed by many smaller companies, in addition to multinational giants such as the Sony Corporation and Texas Instruments. The consortium also facilitates partnerships such as the one established between Powermat Technologies and Duracell. Consortium members have already commercialised dozens of smaller products, of which charging pads such as the Powermat are among the most well-known.

Additionally, other companies have also seized upon the principles of resonant inductive coupling published in the article in Science by its originator, MIT Professor Marin Soljacic (Kurs et al., 2007), to develop their own versions of wireless, contactless energy transfer. Examples of such companies include Intel (which has posted enormous refinements in the energy efficiency of the original design). Sojacic has also founded a company called Witricity to capitalize on his invention; he is now partnering with the Toyota Motor Company in a bid to eventually establishing resonant coupling as a means of recharging electric cars. Even more recently, a new organization whose goal is to encourage adoption of resonant inductive coupling has been founded to rival the WPC: The Alliance for Wireless Power. Although the Alliance was only formed in May 2012 it already has the backing of Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics, and its membership is growing. That said, of greater interest to the current discussion is the impact that WET may have on business. In particular, it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of WET and whether it will ultimately be a sound investment.
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Advantages and Disadvantages for Businesses It would be germane to break down the risks and rewards for businesses based on whether they are producers or consumers of wireless energy. With respect to producers, the cost of development has been and continues to be high. Among the remaining physical hurdles for which likely-expensive solutions need to be found include energy yields and range of operation. Presently, the best implementation of resonant magnetic coupling only attains 90% energy transfer from source to target. Additionally, the total wattage achievable via WET can only fuel small consumer devices; industrial use is still impossible. Finally, the maximum range of operation to date remains 15 meters – a distance not suitable to a great many applications. Moreover, those producers who support the eventual loser of the format duel will likely loser their investment. That said, the rewards for pioneering producers can be great. The value of a developed wireless energy market is projected to be worth 4.5 to 15 billion dollars by 2020 (IMS Research, 2011; Pike Research, 2012); early adopters should have a greater share of this revenue.

From the perspective of the end user, the cost of implementation will be high as businesses would have to retrofit or replace their existing devices. Another potential risk is that of long-term health concerns. While there are currently no known side effects of magnetic field deployment, it will take decades of study to be truly certain of the health impacts of WET.”Additionally, security can be an issue, if current trends with other wireless technology is any indication; without (or even with) constantly-evolving security measures, a wireless source of energy may be a prime target for theft or other malicious acts. Despite these drawbacks, the benefits will likely be enormous.

The savings in infrastructure and materials alone may offset the above disadvantages. Companies would be able to rid themselves of wires, and could achieve true modularity and autonomy of equipment and services. The elimination of battery use would also improve the eco-friendliness of companies in both name and deed asbattery consumption is the most expensive and most contaminating form of energy. Furthermore, inductive power is considered to be harmless to humans, a fact which should mitigate opposition from environmental groups toward adoption of WET. Finally, businesses that produce wireless machinery and robots would be able to develop offerings that, being freed from the rather literal shackles of wires, would be far more agile, autonomous, and mobile than anything currently available.

Regardless of the format ultimately adopted as a standard, it is obvious that many companies have embraced the technology. With the confluence of widespread interest and enormous investment into the development of WET, it is clear that a technological revolution has begun, and this revolution should profoundly change the way in which humans engage their environment.…...

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