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Wireless energy transfer is a very exciting technology which promises to radically change the way we
perform any activity. In this paper I like to explore the concept of transmitting power without using
wires. I will also like to discuss about how the technology developed and evolved over the years. The
paper will also cover the practical experiments conducted and look at a few companies that have
successfully brought out working products into the market. The advantages, disadvantages and the
biological impacts will also be covered in the paper. And finally the paper will also discuss the way
forward in the wireless power transmission field.

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Electricity has become so much a part and parcel of our life that we cannot now imagine living without
it. Day by day the usage of power is increasing at a higher rate as people¶s economic wellbeing
improves. Conventional methods of producing power results in greenhouse gases and pollutes the
environment. However the technology for alternative sources of energy like solar, wind etc is still
considered costly. One method of improving the environment is by reducing the transmission and
distribution losses. As power consumption increases the transmission and distribution losses also
increases. According to official figures the transmission and distribution losses in India stand at 23 %.
However according to a paper by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) these losses have been
estimated to be of the order of 50 % in some states. Also as per a study by SBI Capital markets for
DVB the T&D losses have been estimated to be 58%. Though use of state of the art conductors will
reduce the losses, still a substantial amount of power produced is lost.

Also power theft has become rampant in many parts of the world. It is one of major contributors to the
distribution losses in the world. According to the ministry of power around 20% of power produced in
India is stolen. Transmitting power through wires also poses serious problems of safety with exposed
live wires. These persisting and urgent problems can be overcome by the advent of new technology.
Wireless Power transmission is one such technology which can change the way we produce and
transmit power. Also we can one day be in a world without messy wires at home and on the street.

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The technology is based on the Ampere¶s law showing that electric current produces a magnetic field.
In 1831 Michael Faraday developed the law of induction stating that an electromagnetic force is
induced in a conductor by a time-varying magnetic flux [1]. It was Nicholas Tesla that showed that
power can be transmitted without wires as early as 1891. He demonstrated wireless illumination of a
lamp at the World¶s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

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Wardenclyffe tower also known as Tesla Tower was built to demonstrate the transmission of power
without wires. At the World¶s Fair in 1904, a 75W airship motor is driven by energy transmitted
through space at a distance of at
least 100 feet. William Brown
published a paper proposing
usage of microwave energy for
wireless power transmission in
1961. In 1964 he also
demonstrated a model helicopter
which receives its entire power
requirement from a microwave
beam. In 1968 Peter Glaser
proposes transferring solar
energy from space using power
beaming technology. This led to the concept of Solar Power satellites much later. Experiments in tens
of kilowatts were carried out at the Goldstone Deep Space Communication complex as early as 1975.

In 1988 Auckland Uniservices, the commercial company of The University of Auckland, patents a
technology for a prototype for contact- less power supply. Daifuku, a Japanese company and
Auckland Uniservices develops a wireless technology for car assembly plants and material handling
in 1989. In 1996 Auckland Uniservices commissions 1 commercial IPT Bus in the world at
Whakarewarewa, in New Zealand. Splash power formed in the UK in 2001, the company uses
coupled resonant coils in a flat "pad" style to transfer tens of watts into a variety of consumer devices,
including lamp, phone, PDA, iPod. In 2005, Prof Boys' team at The University of Auckland refines 3-
phase IPT Highway and pick-up systems allowing transfer of power to moving vehicles in the lab. A
physics research group, led by Prof. Marin Soljacic at MIT powered a 60W light bulb with 40%
efficiency at a 2 metres (6.6 ft) distance with two 60 cm-diameter coils in 2007.

Bombardier launches Primove, Catenary -free tracks for trams and light rail vehicles in 2008.The
vehicle uses contactless power transfer and its electric supply components are invisible, hidden under
the vehicle and beneath the track. Wireless Power Consortium, a business alliance of 20 firms to
develop open standards for wireless charging also formed in the same year. Palm a division of HP
launched Palm Pre first mobile in the world to use wireless charging using Palm touchstone charger in
2009. LaserMotive won the 2009 NASA¶s Beam Power Challenge by transmitting over a kilowatt
more than several hundred meters. Recently Sony has announced electrodynamic-induction powered
TV set. Haier group too demonstrated completely wireless LCD television at CES 2010 based on
Marin Soljacic research. Also System on Chip group in University of British Columbia developed an
optimization tool for design of highly efficient wireless power transfer system using multiple coils. The
design was optimized for implantable application and power transfer efficiency of 82% was achieved.

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Near Field is a wireless transmission technique that can cover a distance of a few times that of the
size of the device. The technique does pose some radiative losses and also there may be resistive

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Induction is based on faradays law which states that ³The induced electromotive force (emf) in any
closed circuit is equal to the time rate of change of the magnetic flux through the circuit ³. Faraday
explained that magnetic lines of force were responsible for such an effect. It is the concept of
Electromagnetic induction based on which the operation of generators, electric
motors, transformers, induction motors, and
most other electrical machines works. When
electrical current moves through a wire, it
creates a circular magnetic field around the wire.
Also when the wire is bent into a coil it amplifies
the magnetic field. When the number of loops is
increased the magnetic field around it also
increases. If a second coil of wire is placed
inside this magnetic field a current is generated
in the second wire.
By this principle several devices can be recharged at once. For E.g. Splashpower, a UK based
company had come up with a recharging pad ³Splashpad´ which uses induction principle. Electronic
devices are fitted with splashmodule (a built-in receiver) to recharge while they are resting on the pad.
These splashmodules have compatible coils and the circuitry that is necessary to deliver electricity to
those batteries.

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Resonant energy transfer is one of the near field technologies for energy transfer in which two coils
who is resonant on the same frequency. One of the advantages is that it does not require a magnetic
core unlike induction. Nicolas Tesla used the concept and developed the Tesla Coil which produced
high voltages and provided safety since magnetic field does not affect the living tissues. Also the
device could transmit power over higher distances than inductive coupling. Marin Soljacic, along with
researchers at MIT developed a theoretical analysis on the technology and showed that power can be
transmitted to a few times the coil diameter with good efficiency using resonant energy transfer in
2006. For transmitting power through increased distances the inductive coupling method is inefficient
and a vast amount of energy is wasted in the form of resistive losses in the primary coil. If the both the
coils are resonant at the same frequency, significant power can be transmitted between them over a
higher range.

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ionized at high voltages between two electrodes. The technology uses an ultraviolet beam to ionize
the gases between the transmitter and receiver. Also conductivity of the earth can be utilised to
transmit power. The earth has radii about 4000 miles and is charged. Also there is the atmosphere
which is charged and a small stratum separates the two which is an insulator. One can create a
difference in potential between and earth and the atmosphere and the energy could be recovered.
Studies are going on how to make this technology though it is only theoretical stage right now.c

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Wireless Power transmission can radically change the way we produce and transmit power. Electricity
generation, transmission and distribution face a lot of challenges. In a power hungry world we need to
reduce the losses in transmitting power so that we can use
power more efficiently. Power is a very valuable commodity in
the light of low availability of conventional sources of energy.
Also the renewable sources are more costly. Hence it
becomes imperative that we reduce the losses which stand
currently at around 30 - 50% in India.

Wireless power transmission has a higher efficiency and the

technology can be used for transmitting power through
microwaves or laser. Also the transmission is relatively safe
since there are no live wires that are required which prevents
accidental electrocution. Also one must have noticed the
crowded electric wires on the streets and around the
residential and commercial establishments. From the aesthetic
point of view wireless can provide a polished look to a city or home. Also the land acquisition which is
a burning issue currently can be reduced by adopting wireless transmission.


Resonance Induction can replace the wires of the homes. A coil is placed with two capacitance plates
which can hold charge. The coil resonates when electricity flows through it. The resonance frequency
is equal to the product of inductance and capacitance generated. Another coil can be placed in any of
the devices a typical home uses. When this coil resonates with the same frequency electricity can
tunnel along to the coil in the form of electromagnetic waves. If there are other coils which resonate in
a different frequency then there will be no transfer of energy. One coil has the power to transfer
energy to many coils. This technology has the power to transmit electricity to all the devices in the

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Splashpower, a UK based company had come up with a pad or a table like arrangement which uses
the concept of induction to charge any
electronic device which placed on it. The
pad acts as the transmitter and the
appropriate circuit is placed on the
device which converts the magnetic field
into electricity. Also nowadays the
electronic toothbrush is charged using
the induction concept of transfer or
electric energy. Mobile phones, Laptops
and ipods could be charged without ever
connecting it to the wire.


Wireless transmission can be used to

operate unmanned vehicles which do not
have to land in order to refuel. Power
can be directed at the vehicles and the onboard receiver can transform it into power for its use. There
are working prototypes that have been developed by Canada¶s communication research centre for
unmanned planes. Also microwave transmission can be used for destabilising an approaching enemy
like the Active Denial System.
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Space based solar power is harnessing sun¶s energy in space and transmitting the same for earths
use. The solar panels can be placed on a satellite or even in the moon. The power thus generated
can be transmitted to the earth. Solar irradiance which is a measure of the solar power generation
capability is about 950 W/m2 on earth and about 1367 W/m2 for extraterrestrial. Also solar power on
earth can be harness only for about 12 maximum in a place and it depends largely on climatic
conditions. Whereas space offers 24 hours for harnessing the solar power. There are two problems
that need to be addressed, one is sending the solar power satellites and the other is the transmission
back to earth. The first requires advances in technology of satellite solar panels. Microwave power
transmission technique can be used for the transfer of this power to earth. The satellite can convert
the solar energy into microwave and direct them towards the earth surface. A receiver such as a
rectenna can collect this microwave and convert it back to electricity.

Many problems that are associated with generating solar power on earth like dependence on weather,
land acquisition, protection of wildlife can be entirely avoided. NASA has instituted the Space Solar
Power Exploratory Research and Technology program to look into the possibility of generating power

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in space. One of the mandates of the program is to formulate a plan for generating power using solar

Nuclear power brings with it

questions of wastage and its
disposal. This concept does
not have any such known
threats. Also when there are
major natural disasters like the
earthquake or tsunami it is
possible to direct the solar
satellite to the affected region
and provide as much of the
energy that is required. It has
the capability to provide instant
power supply to anywhere in
the world. Also with
geosynchronous satellites the
power can be transmitted 24
hrs a day. Also in conflict
zones like Iraq and Afghanistan the military can be supplied with power by just redirecting the
satellites. A mobile receiving station can then generate the required energy. The lives lost in
protecting he gallons of fuel needed for war can be saved.

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Beam powered propulsion can be used to transmit power to spacecraft or even the commercial
airlines. Fuel costs and the pollution associated with it are one of the major pain points concerning the
spacecraft. The beam could be a microwave beam or a laser beam. Fuel forms most of the weight
associated with a rocket and with a beam powered propulsion the fuel is left back on the earth
surface. Lasermotive beamed power up to 1 km during the NASA beaming competition. Also a laser
broom to clean up the space debris is also being planned.


Researchers at the University of Auckland have successfully adapted the wireless power transmission
for vehicle movement and they call the technology Inductive Power transfer. One can place a track on
the roads of our highways and each vehicle or car is fitted with a receiver which converts the power
transmitted into electricity to power the electric motors that drive the vehicle. There is no requirement
to plug in to charge your electric vehicle.

Fuel is not required and by combining the solar satellites with the transport one can imagine a world
where global warming was a thing of the past.

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Contactless smart card is an IC chip which stores information and communicates with a terminal via
radio waves. These cards can be used as a means for identification like the recent Aadhar cards
planned for India. Also business transactions can be effected without human intervention. They have
been widely implemented in transport, security and electronic payments.

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In many streets around the world the trams and trains add to the visual pollution of the landscapes
and the architecture of the city. Bombardier has come up with Primove which provides catenary-free
tracks. The trams can be used for overhead as well as underground railway lines. It results in
eliminating the overhead wires and there is no wear and tear. The trams can be operated in all
weather conditions.

In a conventional system the power is taken from the overhead power lines. In Primove a cable is
placed along the tracks which are connected to the power supply network. A receiver coil is placed
underneath each vehicle which turns the magnetic field into electricity which is used to move the train.
Also since the power will flow only when the whole vehicle covers the cables it is safe also.

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HP through its subsidiary Palm has introduced Palm pre which can be charged wirelessly using the
Palm Touchstone mobile charger. The phone can be charged just placing it on the dock. The dock
and phone work on the principle of resonant induction. The primary coil is available in the dock and
the phone carries the secondary coil. As the electricity flows through the doc it generates a magnetic
field which induces electricity in the secondary coil.


Witricity is involved in developing the wireless power technology and they have come up with a
number of advancements in the technology. It is being guided by Marian Soljacic from MIT.

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Researchers at Intel are working on transferring power without wires called Wireless Resonant
Energy Link (WREL). Justin Rattner the chief technology officer of Intel demonstrated the technology
at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in 2008. The demonstration included to light up a 60W bulb
wirelessly using a resonator.

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Fulton innovation has developed the ecoupled technology for transferring wireless power. It is
operating under the parent company Alticor, Inc. The technology uses the principle of inductive
coupling between the primary and secondary coil. The technology automatically identifies whether a
device needs charging or not and also does not charge if it is fully charged. The power transfer has
almost 98 % efficiency and Fulton has filed more than 220 patents on this technology.


Sony has developed an efficient method for transmitting power based on resonance. Using the
system a 60W bulb can be lit at a distance of over 50 cm. It has also introduced the concept of
extender units which increases the distance without compromising on the efficiency which stands at
80%. It is planning to implement this technology in its future products.

One key technology that has been advanced is the use of extenders to increase the distance. The
extender units also resonate in the same frequency and there is minimum loss in the process. Sony
plans to implement it in it television sets and mobile phones being powered wirelessly.

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Wireless Power consortium is an alliance of 20 business firms which are involved in developing a
common standard for wireless power transfer. The consortium is in the process of developing a
universal standard for charging wirelessly so that various devices can be charged without need to
change the charging station. It aims to bring together different brands and devices so that any device
can be recharged using a common station. The open standard Qi was launched in 2009.

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LaserMotive is a Seattle based company which won the NASA¶s Power beaming competition winning
$ 900,000. The company is involved in developing systems which can transmit electricity over long
distances using laser. The beam is generated and the beam size is controlled. This beam moves
through the atmosphere or space and reaches the photovoltaic receiver. The receiver converts it into
electrical energy. There is no requirement for bulky equipment and wires. All it requires are
equipments at the transmitting and receiving end and nothing in between. There is no time as the
system can be set just by implementing
the two ends and does not require poles,
wires etc.

LaserMotive is also involved in

developing the technology for power
transmission for unmanned aerial
vehicles (UAV). Distance traversed in the
case of a UAV is limited by the fuel
requirement. The technology that has
been developed by lasermotive frees up
the UAV from landing to recharge its
batteries. The laser beam is sent from a
ground station and a receiver attached to
the UAV converts this beam into electrical energy. Lasermotive is also involved in developing
technology for defence purposes. Military bases can benefit from the technology as power can be
transmitted over long distances and there is no need to refuel in the midst of combat.

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The Wireless Power Consortium was formed to develop a uniform open standard so that devices can
work across charging stations. Though some big names like nokia, Phillips and Sanyo are part of the
consortium the open standard has not been implemented in many devices due to certain differences
in the standard. The Qi standard that has been must be adopted as a universal standard and
implemented across devices.

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A major misconception among many consumer public is that wireless transfer of power affects the
living tissues and causes damage. According to WHOM factsheet on Electromagnetic fields and
Public health continued exposure to magnetic fields well above 100 mT will lead to nervous system

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problems. However the power that will be used for wireless power transmission is well below that
which can affect the tissues. This challenge can be overcome by generating awareness among the
larger public.


The cost associated with wireless power transmission technology is very high. While the cost may be
high initially there is nil to small maintenance cost associated. Since there is no requirement of any
wires and charging equipment, material can be saved. Only a receiving station is required for each
house and transmitter to the devices, since all the devices will be enabled with receivers. Also it
reduces the transmission and distribution losses. There is no chance of any power theft which can be
a great saving for a country.

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Laser beam technology is a highly inefficient form of technology with efficiency as low as 40 to 50%.
The efficiency needs to be improved and more research needs to be carried out in this area.

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Nations have gone to war in search of fuels to satisfy their energy needs. If the solar power satellite
technology is implemented there will not be any power scarcity. Also if the wireless power is
implemented in transport by laying cables under the roads this power can be used to run vehicles.
Also the same power can be used to charge our homes. From flying aircraft to combating war the
whole picture could change. Also since there is not carbon emission we can free our world from the
effects of global warming. The world should come together to set up research centres and
organizations to take the technology forward.

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The transmission of electricity without wires has become a reality thanks to the advancement of
technology. It has the power to change radically the way we perform any activity. From Tesla¶s
Wardenclyffe tower to the present laser beam from lasermotive technology has come a long way. Let
us hope that in the interest of all the people of the world this technology is adapted and implemented
across the world in the near future.

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À http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_energy_transfer

À http://www.powermin.nic.in/JSP_SERVLETS/internal.jsp

À http://www.uniservices.co.nz/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=9i4tKmVqhmY%3d&tabid=345

À http://www.bombardier.com/en/transportation/sustainability/technology/primove-catenary-free-


À http://lasermotive.com/

À http://www.witricity.com/

À http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECoupled

À http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs322/en/index.html

À http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/News/Press/200910/09-119E/index.html

À http://blogs.intel.com/research/2008/08/you_have_to_see_thiswireless_p.php

À http://www.teriin.org/upfiles//pub/papers/ft33.pdf

À http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124885874162589595.html

À http://www.howstuffworks.com/wireless-power.htmc

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