Wireless charging technology has a fascinating history and an incredibly exciting future. It’s so much more than charging plates and cellphones. In our previous post about wireless charging, we alluded to some of the advancements it took to bring us to this point in technological development. But today, we’ll dive further into these chapters of history, discovering where wireless charging technology came from, as well as what the next year, decade, and century could hold for this innovation!
Our Favorite Inventors!
The idea that energy, power, or electricity could be transferred between points has been around since at least 1831. At the time, it was Michael Faraday leading the charge in this area, demonstrating that magnetic induction can occur when you have an oscillating electrical current in one coil of wire sitting close to another. This wasn’t a particular practical solution, however, as Faraday’s system needed enormous magnets to function.
But then came Nikola Tesla, probably one of humanity’s greatest minds. That idolization by technology nerds is probably why there are now a multitude of electric cars on the road that bear his name. Tesla was born on July 10th, 1856 in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire. By 1884, Tesla had moved to New York to fulfill a dream of harnessing the power of Niagara Falls for electricity generation, while working alongside Thomas Edison. Soon, however, the two would begin to butt heads, with Tesla recommending the widespread adoption of an alternating current (AC) electrical standard over Edison’s direct current format.
The Years that Followed
Slowly, Tesla would begin to make a name for himself, pioneering a range of technologies from early radio systems to the Tesla coil, which would become a core component of modern day wireless charging units. With the coil in hand, Tesla started to dream up his next invention: the transfer of electrical current, and ultimately power, without the need or use of wires.
Unfortunately, the Tesla coil could only move electricity short distances, and not without the particularly fatal drawbacks of seriously powerful open charges moving through the air. Instead, Tesla, at his new facility in Colorado, would try to use the ground itself as an induction system. According to lab notes left behind by the inventor, he managed in a series of tests to power lightbulbs without wires from hundreds of feet away. Between 1901 and 1905, Tesla would start construction on his Wardenclyffe laboratory and it’s now famous transmitting tower to further these experiments, but it was never finished due a lack of funding.
World War II and Beyond
Despite never completing his rounds of testing, Tesla set the stage for a future where wireless charging could take shape. Although a bit delayed, the next experiments in generating wireless energy came from H. V. Noble in the early 1930s, and which would subsequently be shown at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933-1934. By World War II, the world’s scientists had begun to look at microwaves as a source of wireless energy, needed at the time to power radar systems. More and more progress on this technology was made through the 1950s to the 1970s, led primarily by the work of William C. Brown, the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, and the Raytheon company. But still, this wireless charging technology was hampered enough to limit its practical use. That is, until recently.
Wireless Charging Technology – Today and Tomorrow
The present and future of wireless charging is incredibly exciting. And it’s so much more than electric toothbrushes. Yes, the fact that IKEA, Starbucks and plenty of other household names are jumping into the wireless charging arena with integrated furniture and the like is fun, but it’s the real innovation beyond these feats that’s exciting.
Take uBeam for example, which is harnessing the power of ultrasound (yes, the same thing doctors use to get glimpses of unborn babies) for wireless charging that’s safe and ready to move larger distances. Also in this race is Stanford University, which has recently achieved a very near recreation of Tesla’s dream of true wireless, over-the-air, energy transmission. Those working on the team believe that if scalable, the technology could be used to wirelessly charge electric cars on the roads as they move about, completely eliminating the need for fossil fuels. Disney has even created an entire “wireless charging room” that will provide a constant supply of power for up to 10 devices at a time!
The Future Is Limitless
Of course, there are still plenty of far out proposals for wireless charging. The best among these may be from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. The JAEA believes that by the 2040s, they will have launched a space-based wireless electricity system that would beam power back to Earth via microwaves. Unlimited clean energy so long as the sun keeps shining. It may sound like science fiction, but with the progress we have made since the early days of Faraday and Tesla, this future might not be that far off. For now, however, we will have to make due with battery power-ups via wireless charging pads!
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