Wireless charging is one of the most convenient technologies of the last few years. No need to fuss about finding a lead and plugging it in - simply place your smartphone on a charging plate or cradle, and let the magic energy goblins do the rest! However there is a new technology on the horizon, set to make life even easier - true wireless air charging.
Wireless air charging is the ultimate in convenience - a technology that can charge your phone through the air, without the need for any wires or charging cradles! Your phone could be sitting on the table next to you or in your hands, and it’d be constantly charging to keep the battery full. Sounds like magic, doesn’t it?
Happily it’s a very real technology, and one that may be ready for public use within a matter of years. There are a number of different companies all working on their own versions of air charging - the most recent of these is Motorola, who have partnered with a company called ‘GuRu’ to develop a system that can beam power to multiple devices in a room. And while it may be years off, it’s only a matter of time before consumer models become available.
How does wireless air charging work?
You may be surprised to learn that the idea of wireless power transmission is actually very old - it was first demonstrated by Nikola Tesla in the late 19th century, when he used his famous Tesla Coils to power a lightbulb without the need for wires. While his version was far too large and expensive to be practical, his concept of transferring power using electromagnetic waves forms the basis of wireless air charging.
Most of the prototypes currently announced work as a 2 part system - a transmitter placed in a room, and a receiver on the device to be charged. The transmitter then sends out ultra-narrow ‘millimeter waves’ (mmWave), which operate on very high radio frequencies between 30-300GHz. These waves are received by the device, and the signals are converted into power and fed into the battery of the device. There are similarities to the way WiFi signals from your router are picked up by your laptop or phone - except instead of information, the signals are designed to be transferred into juice to keep your gadgets running longer.
The quest for Nikola Tesla’s wireless power technology
It’s a clever system, but not without problems. The need for specific attachments on your devices means older devices will need modifying or compatible cases - though this is no different from the current situation with wireless charging phones. The transmitter itself may prove a problem - depending on the prototype, the transmitter’s size can range from the size of a router up to the size of a small air-conditioning unit. In the later example, the transmitter can form quite an eyesore, since it needs to be positioned centrally in the room for optimal charging. Finally, it’s probable that wireless air charging will be significantly slower than other forms of charging… at least at first. However as the technology evolves, charging speeds will start to creep up to match those of current wireless methods.
Current wireless air charging technology
As we’ve mentioned, there are a number of companies already experimenting with wireless air charging. Way back in the mists of 2016, a company called Ossia unveiled their wireless iphone charger at CES. Though this model was extremely bulky and only charged with a single watt of power, it was an exciting glimpse of the future. Unfortunately, despite a promise to have the technology on the market by the end of 2016, Ossia went quiet, and still haven’t released their air wireless charger.
Fast-forward several years, and there are a number of other companies trying again. The Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi recently unveiled their long-range air charging technology with an impressive tech demo, though unfortunately there are no firm plans to bring it to the market just yet.
MiAirCharge Technology | Charge Your Device Remotely
Another Chinese firm, Oppo, also announced their plans for a wireless air charger earlier this year. However unlike other experiments, this one is more short-range than long-range - it functions like a standard wireless charging pad, but can continue charging devices when they aren’t touching the pad, up to a range of about 10cm. While that doesn’t seem quite as magical as charging your phone the minute you walk in the room it does help remove one of the frustrations of current wireless charging technology, where your phone has to remain touching the charging surface to work.
Wireless Air Charging | OPPO
Finally, we have Motorola & GuRu’s attempt at solving long-range charging. The two companies are aiming big with this tech - they are hoping that eventually wireless charging signals will be as ubiquitous as wifi, blanketing rooms and houses so your gadgets never run out of power again. They claim their system can charge multiple devices at once, even if the devices change position or are moving at speed. Again, there is no timeframe for bringing this technology to consumers, but with so many companies working on it, it seems to be a question of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’.