The growth of touchless wireless power transfer is ushering in a disruptive technology for medium-range and long-range transmission.
Electrical power as we know it has been around since 1882. That’s when Thomas Edison first built a direct current generator, radial line transmission and twisted copper wires to get power to the end users. Since then, electrical power to major metropolitan and industrial areas has been conducted through the same copper wire-based power grid system, so it may come as a surprise that something in use for almost 140 years is fundamentally flawed.
But the problem is electrical grids leverage enormous scopes of infrastructure in order to overcome numerous geographical challenges, as well as both obvious and nuanced obstacles presented by bringing electricity to both populated and undeveloped areas. Power lines cannot be installed in proximity to populated or protected areas due to the myriad risks they bring, both damaging health or potential death, in the event they’re approached too closely. Furthermore, production and maintenance of substations as well as power lines are proven to present high pollution risks due to carbon emissions. As most people know, high concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere contribute to global warming.
While these power grids, in effect, are what keep the modern world going, both an apparent lack of accessibility and mobility, as well as the detrimental environmental concerns, have brought us to a point where a new system is needed to accommodate the needs of society. Unfortunately, solutions that have been so far been proposed are afflicted by fundamental limitations.
Why carbon offset credits won’t reduce our carbon footprint
Svante Arrhenius mentioned global warming in 1896 and predicted its potential impacts. Although the first signs were identified in 1938, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the world even started to pay attention. Conventionally, the go-to solution for lowering greenhouse gas emissions has been to impose ever-stricter emissions caps, forcing large enterprises to renew technologies used to keep pollution in check.
Fast forward to 2021, and regulatory compliance for legally imposed carbon emissions caps still require companies to limit emissions to a degree considered “safe.” On one hand, this might encourage technological evolution, even development of more environmentally conscious manufacturing processes. On the other hand, entities that, in activity, do not emit carbon dioxide are able to sell remaining carbon emissions to equilibrate global warming’s impact.
Under this arrangement, there is a looming prospect in the distance. Large-scale industrial manufacturers will get the opportunity to buy forests or farmland, effectively putting themselves in position to own a subsidiary that, with little to no effort, can lower its carbon emissions and therefore score lower in carbon offset credits. Once done, remaining credits can be sold back to the parent company—entities that require larger investments to lower carbon emissions and improve business. While such a practice is indeed flawed, the government has no say in the negotiation or pricing for individual carbon offset credits, allowing powerful companies to undergo transactions at their own will. On the surface it may look like we are limiting large companies’ carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, but behind the scenes, this is a clever way to make the rich richer, and provide one more strategy to lower taxes and avoid regulations.
How wireless power transfer (WPT) or touchless WPT (tWPT) can save the day
The argument of a new and better system of electrical power distribution has come full circle, ending as it began when Edison’s solution for powering the world came face to face with Nikola Tesla’s. Wireless Power Transfer (or WPT) is becoming a more popular mode for power transfer in numerous systems. Although largely considered mainstream, its principles never cease to amaze. The process of WPT consists of electromagnetic induction (EMI), which occurs between two coils placed a distance apart from one another. Magnetic field lines generated from a transmitter coil interact with a load resonator and magically produce electricity.
Already developed WPT technologies are generally short-range. But the growth of tWPT is ushering in a disruptive technology for medium-range and long-range transmission. The popular uses of short-range, or “close-contact,” wireless power transfer are everything from radio-frequency identification, to biomedical applications, to wireless charging—in fact several everyday consumer electronics can be charged wirelessly, like watches, earphones, headphones, or tablets. tWPt for mid-range applications are becoming popular in the medical field, as well as the military, which has already requested development of a wireless network that uses lasers to transmit electrical power.
How touchless wireless power can sustainably reduce industrial emissions and reduce carbon offset credits
Electricity and heat production account for 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions, but current distribution systems can be made wireless by leveraging available microwave technology with high efficiency and all-range tWPT. In these touchless wireless distribution systems, in the future towers could collect power from nearby solar or production plants, emitting energy with amplified levels up to 100 MW. Incorporate short-range systems with efficiency up to 90%, and from there, mid-range systems transmit that energy to substantiations equipped with digital busses to achieve long-range transmission.
By consolidating current benefits of wind-, solar- and hydro-electric systems, tWPT could provide endless implementation of green energy power plants unencumbered by logistics, overcoming all traditional power grid system requirements. What’s more, replacing existing power grids with wireless power systems requires little more than replacing wires with digital busses or wireless connections that allow multiple-use cases. Most important, tWPT ushers in the ability to create wireless electrical grid local area networks (WiGL) that can send electrical power the same way we send wire data via WiFi to the end user.
Technical and Sociological Challenges
As with any new technology, and one as ambitious as what WiGL offers, there will always be challenges that must be overcome in development to fully reach the desired outcome. The pursuit of truly wireless power is no different, and offers some of the most unique hurdles, one of the greatest being the ability to charge over distance. Being able to transfer power over more than a few feet without significant loss, and shepherd it in the correct direction is what WiGL strived to achieve.
This has been demonstrated at distances over eight feet thanks to WiGL’s innovative mesh networking or transmitters. Meaning, WiGL is potentially able to create infinite distance by adding more and more transmitters for touchless wireless power.
But technical advancements like tWPT also present sociological ones. WiGL’s accessibility and model can create opportunity not only privately, but for communities as well whether that be in public transit, city planning, or other civil projects. The onus will fall on WiGL enabled product manufacturers to ensure that the technologies are widely available for the consumers and the communities WiGL could serve one day. Ensuring underrepresented communities are not left behind to become 3rd or 4th world technology deserts.
Of course issues still have to be addressed, but effectively, this system could co-opt near-field WPT for transmission in distribution systems with higher efficiency. Once production and distribution questions are answered, industrial manufacturers, large-scale enterprises, and electric vehicles will automatically help lower the carbon footprint by using cleaner energy.
tWPT technology can potentially reduce or eliminate the need for wires and substations, and is useful to power electric devices where interconnecting wires are inconvenient or hazardous.
The system also eliminates the need for lithium-ion batteries, which research shows can emit 74% more carbon dioxide than the production of a conventional car.
Existing WPT technologies have advanced radically in the last few years and have made their way mainstream. Of course, most tWPT systems are still under development but there is no doubt that tWPT brings several advantages to conventional electricity production and distribution and provides greater convenience over WPT… while lowering the carbon footprint of both power plants and end users.
This article was originally published on Embedded.
Dr. Ahmad Glover is founder of Wireless-electric Grid LAN (WiGL). He has successfully directed and managed large-scale energy transfer programs for the U.S. military for over 30+ years. He served as a strategic technical advisor for the Federal Aviation Administration, numerous municipal governments, and private industry companies. Dr. Glover served 23 years in the U.S. Air Force, where he led high-tech acquisitions programs overseeing multi-billion-dollar space and special operations programs. He successfully helped create numerous start-ups and spin off for the Air Force. After retirement, he successfully positioned CPS Professional Services for acquisition in 2014. Dr. Glover holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Mount Olive College, a Master of Business Administration from Cameron University, and Doctor of Business Administration from Touro University.
Cherif Chibane is Chief Technology Officer at WiGL. He is a world-renowned scholar and noted expert with our 30+ years experience in the of radio frequency energy transfer. As an executive, Mr. Chibane has successfully managed high-tech programs at Draper Laboratories, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), BAE Systems, and AuresTech. Mr. Chibane assisted in the development of WiGL and knows the technology and its scope. He’s successfully positioned numerous start-ups for acquisition. Mr. Chibane holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He also holds advanced degrees in Advanced Communication Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles.