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The future will be powered wirelessly

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Wireless power transfer could revolutionise the world (Screenshot via YouTube)

The technology to achieve wireless power transfer is advancing, which could revolutionise everything from energy transmission to electric transport. Paul Budde reports.

TELE-ENERGY, or more accurately wireless power transfer, is a generic term for a number of different technologies for transmitting energy by means of electromagnetic fields.

Wikipedia describes it as follows:

‘A transmitter device, driven by electric power from a power source, generates a time-varying electromagnetic field, which transmits power across space to a receiver device, which extracts power from the field and supplies it to an electrical load.’

Advancements in radar and advanced materials technology have made energy transmission over long ranges possible. New Zealand energy innovator Emrod has developed a unique wireless technology that makes long-distance energy transmission safe and reliable for commercial purposes.

Energy is transmitted through electromagnetic waves over long distances using the company’s proprietary beam shaping, metamaterials and rectenna technology.

The technology uses beams in the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band with frequencies commonly used in WiFi, Bluetooth and Radio Frequency ID.

Point-to-point transmission means that power is beamed directly between two points. There is minimal radiation around the beam, less than there is with high-voltage wire transmission.

It looks like it uses a narrow microwave beam, with the beam forming, on ISM frequencies, probably 2.45 GHz. And then it surrounds the beam with laser beams so that if a bird or something flies into the beam, the laser receiver detects it and interrupts the beam.

Such a low-power laser safety curtain ensures that the transmission beam immediately shuts down before any transient object (such as a bird or helicopter) can reach the main beam ensuring it never touches anything except clean air.

Weather or atmospheric conditions such as rain, fog or dust have a negligible impact on our technology.

There are a handful of other companies developing new technologies in this field. Field tests have begun for some systems. Wireless electricity has been discussed for more than a century – it was Nicola Tesla who showed that it physically could be done back in 1891 – and it will be interesting to see who will be able to deliver a truly efficient, economical and viable wireless electricity solution.    

Another interesting development involves the use of solar power satellites. They could convert sunlight into energy, which is composed of microwaves. These microwave signals would then be transmitted to an antenna on the ground or to a main grid station. Nobody less than the world-renowned science and engineering Caltech Institute in America is involved in test projects.

Inductive power transmission is another wireless solution. This enables the power from an alternating current in one circuit to be coupled from one circuit into another. As wires are not required for the transfer between circuits, inductive power transmission is a wireless form of technology.

Of course, we know this well from cooking devices. However, the technology is also used to power buses. When they arrive at bus stops, they always “tank” a bit of electricity, with wireless charging stations embedded under concrete.

The German company Magment goes one step further. It buries electrified wire coils that create a magnetic field along the road surface, mimicking the way wireless charging stations. This can be used to charge all electric vehicles fitted with a receiver coil to pick up the charge as they go along and as they become magnetised, directly draw electricity from the coils.

In other smart energy news, a renewable energy storage facility using Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) technology developed by Canadian energy storage developer Hydrostor is going to be developed in a disused Broken Hill mine. The $652 million Silver City Energy Storage Centre is said to be a cost-effective, emissions-free storage solution.

Paul Budde is an Independent Australia columnist and managing director of Paul Budde Consulting, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde.

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