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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Charge Your Phone And Other Devices - Without Wires!

Too Many Wires Mean Too Many Receptacles!
    I've written quite a few articles about charging your electronic devices while on the road. Typically, it's because of the annoyance of carrying lots of different charge cables around. Less is more. Well, most of the time. What if I told you there was a way to charge your devices without cables at all. No, I'm not talking about Nikola Tesla's broadcast power technology, but merely old-fashioned magnetic induction. I know it has a high tech sounding name, but it's a pretty simple process. Lots of new cell phones already have it built in. The ones that do not can be retrofitted to be able to use it. Mostly. Read on!

A Simple Diagram?
What exactly is inductive charging anyway? Well simply put, it's a couple of electro-magnets on either device. When brought close together and energized with current, the transfer of energy begins and power flows from the transmitter base into the device's receiver, recharging your battery. In practice, it's a whole lot simpler. If you have a phone that has the technology in it, you just place the phone on a pad or dock and it charges. Look Ma, no cables! When this was first introduced to the cell phone world there were a couple of competing versions. Mercifully, one got chosen and we have a standard version now. It's called "Qi." In case you are wondering, that's the Chinese word for "energy flow." Makes sense, huh? There aren't too many devices out there that have it built in, but they do exist and will likely grow numerous as adoption rates among manufacturers increases. Well, what about now?

Typical Standalone Receiver
If you have a device that uses Mini-USB or Micro-USB or even USB-C there are products that will act as receivers for devices that don't already have them built in. My latest phone didn't have Qi charging at all, but since it was chargeable via USB-C I was able to find a thin pad style device that fits on the back of the phone and plugs into the charging port on the bottom. All of this fits inside the add-on phone case and doesn't affect anything at all. Well, you do need to disconnect the receiver if you want to connect your phone to a computer using USB. Bluetooth and WiFi connections are unaffected. Best of all? They were $1.76 Each! That's right, under two bucks!

Now for the catch. Yup, there is one. You cannot charge rapidly with them. They max out at around 5 Volts at 1 amp. That's not very high, but will charge a cellphone overnight. If you just charge at night on your bedstand, this is easy. Put your phone on the charger and when you wake up it's full. Like magic. If you want to get charged quickly, especially with the new Power Delivery or Quick Charge protocols, you'll still need to plug in a cable. I'll wager that, in time, higher power versions will be available and even rapid charging will be available wirelessly soon enough.

Who knows, maybe Nikola Tesla had the right idea? Broadcast power with no wires, never charge up your RV when traveling, unlimited boondocking power reserves. All by using the earth as a conductor. Way cool...not sure if there would be any side effects..but it's still a cool idea! Now, what can you do with all the extra USB chargers?

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

11 comments:

  1. I don't get it. Receiver "plugs in" to the phone...WIRE! The charger "plugs in" to AC...Wire! What am I missing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wayne,
      The receiver semi-permanently plug into the phone and is left in place. the transmitter plugs into the wall NOT the phone. You place your device on the charger and it charges. no wires between them. No plugging and unplugging daily.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
    2. Two BIG advantages as I see it... First, "microcharging" - between uses, you simply set it down and it gets a charge until you use it again, where you wouldn't bother to physically plug it in the normal way. My phone uses two full charges a day, so these brief charges add up to surviving the day. Second, it saves a lot of wear and tear on the microUSB plug, which has a tendency to wear out or snap off if you're a less gentle user.

      Delete
  2. You didn't take this far enough... the Qi receiver provides 5V power to any USB device, so I've stuck pads to Kindles, tablets, MP3 players and pocket battery packs. Now, almost every surface I'd set things down on has a Qi base, and all my devices keep themselves charged passively (unless I idiotically put them down next to the base...ahem!).

    Qi was introduced when most phones didn't accept more than 1A, so that's what was mass produced. Now that USB-C allows much more for hungry devices, I'm sure there will be high current versions coming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wolfe,
      I did mention "other devices." :) And higher power versions will be available soon. Just not yet! Like all technology....wait a bit and Voila! there it is.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
    2. Actually, there are already production bases claiming 2A/10W USB2 (Belkin even claims 15W for their $50 charger). These are mostly BS because charging is controlled by a feedback loop in the receiver and most current devices don't "ask" for more than 5W. I tweaked my $3 base/$1 receivers up to 1.3A or so, but at higher currents the (~85% typical) coupling inefficiencies start adding up to a lot of HEAT.

      That inefficiency comes from nonconcentric alignment and coil distance due to the cases (especially if you still lock at 140KHz). PID controlled frequency matching (105-200KHz) helps the distance issue greatly, but there will always be a percentage lost to heat, times the wattage.

      There IS a "high current" spec for Qi that allows up to 100W for larger devices like laptops, but presumably relies on multiple coils...I've never seen a real implementation in the wild.

      -Wolfe the Mad Scientist

      Delete
  3. I use the magnetic plug/cord. Each device has a magnetic plug inserted in the micro usb port. I have the magnetic cables plugged and ready all over the house/motorhome/car. Whenever I set my phone down I point it towards a cord and it connects, and it's a fast charge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought about mentioning those but I still like Qi better. Plunking the phone down in a certain place on the desk is even more passive than having the magnetic cabling cobra-strike when close. I work HARD to be this lazy!

      Delete
    2. Roy,
      Wow, that's a great idea! I just looked into them. A bit pricey...kind of a Mac thing?? Will definitely save the USB ports from insertion/removal damage though.

      Thanks for the tip!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
    3. $2 on AE... Android/Apple/USB-C plugs.

      Not sure what the electronics do besides an led, since it only has to be pins and magnets...

      Delete
    4. Wolfe,
      I actually "snort laughed" when i read you comment referencing "cobra strike" cabling. Love it!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete

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