How Does Wireless Charging Work?


Do you also have this one tray full of cables? Half of them are charger cables – suitable for my current smartphone, my old smartphone, that of my partner, then there are some for old iPods, fitness wristbands and so on. And remember that there’s not just one cable for each device, but several, because I always like to lay them.

To put an end to this tangle of cables, I want to switch to wireless charging. But how simple is that, how does wireless charging work and does it really only have advantages? In this article, I get to the bottom of these questions.

What is wireless charging?

Wireless, i.e. inductive charging, has been around for quite some time – and if you have an electric toothbrush or an inductive hob at home, you also use this technology regularly. It’s slowly gaining ground in the smartphone market and flagships like the iPhone 8 or the newer Galaxy models from Samsung have integrated the technology. So you don’t have to search for the charging cable again, but simply place the smartphone on the charging pad and the battery is charged.

How does it work?

The mechanics behind the charging process work by induction: A coil through which alternating current flows is installed in the charging station. This creates a magnetic field around the charging pad. There is also a coil in the smartphone itself. When this gets into the magnetic field of the charging station, current also flows through the smartphone coil, which is then fed directly into the battery.

This means that the energy is only transferred when the smartphone is so close to the charging pad that it gets caught in the magnetic field. Most charging stations also emit signals that tell them if a smartphone is on the charging station and if it still needs power. This reduces constant electromagnetic radiation to a minimum.

There used to be three standards for inductive charging: Qi (pronounced: Tschi), Rezence and Powermat. In the meantime, however, they all belong to the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), which has brought Qi technology to the fore.

Pros of using wireless charging

Inductive charging is not uncontroversial, although it has a number of advantages. This method eliminates the need to fumble when plugging the charging cable into the USB socket. This is protected, which leads to longer durability of the device. On the other hand, the cable clutter decreases, as there is now only one thing left from the charging pad to the socket, which also no longer needs to be moved. The station can then be used to charge all devices with Qi technology, i.e. you no longer need a separate cable for every smartphone, tablet or fitness wristband.

The look or lifestyle feeling also plays a role. I myself think, for example, that it looks a lot better if I can simply place my smartphone on the coffee table or in the car and it is already loaded. Loading areas like these are being used more and more in tables, shelves, lamps, and vehicles, but also in public places. Empty batteries would then no longer be a problem at airports, doctors’ offices or restaurants.

Cons of wireless charging

Obviously, it would be nice to be able to put your smartphone anywhere and it will be loaded. But for such pallets, there has to be enough space and money. The charging stations are currently even more expensive than cables.

In addition, inductive charging is usually slower than cable charging. Although there are now also charging pads that support fast charging, they still cost relatively much. Another negative point is the energy loss that occurs during charging. Although this is minimized further and further, most charging pads still lose about ten to twenty percent.

What is also currently being worked on is reducing the distance between the current transmitter and receiver. Currently, the smartphone can only be a few centimeters away from the loading area. Thanks to a new technology that works via WLAN, the Energous start-up wants to extend the distance to 4.5 meters this year. This would allow all devices in the room to be constantly charged.

I am curious to see how this technology will evolve and how it will simplify our lives. Not only for my cable drawer, but also for the complete mobility of the future, the topic of wireless charging is becoming more and more important.

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