When we think of wireless charging, we dream of powering our devices from a distance, sort of like Wi-Fi blanketing our homes. What we have instead are inductive methods that still require wires, outlets, and special surfaces. That’s not the future we signed up for.
Thankfully, Disney Research has developed a method capable of covering an average room, no wires or extra accessories required. (And, yes, it’s safe for humans.)
In a paper published to PLOS One, Disney researchers Matthew Chabalko, Mohsen Shahmohammadi and Alanson Sample describe a method called “Volumetric wireless power for livable spaces.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: wireless charging around your room, with 40 to 95 percent efficiency depending on where you are.
Unfortunately, a room with volumetric wireless power needs to be specifically outfitted to support the technology. In a video demonstration, researchers built a free-standing room with aluminum panels covering the walls, floor and ceiling. In the middle sits a copper pipe, which carriers an electric current to the panels that loops at 1.3 million times per second.
Wireless charging of the future
So, you need to have a specially outfitted room, which makes the technology much less accessible to the masses. But, at least we know there may be some really cool possibilities in the future. The question is: is it safe?
To prove the system doesn’t pose any risks, researchers were able to transmit 1.9 kilowatts of electricity without having any adverse affects on humans. That’s enough to provide power for up to 320 USB-powered devices. Considering most people own one or two phones, and maybe even a tablet, that’s more than enough power.
It might not prove useful for your home, but imagine Disney’s method being used in coffee shops, restaurants, and retail spaces around the world. Just step inside Starbucks, sit down for a coffee, and your phone will be charged.