In 2008, Gartner Research released a report in which it identified the number one IT grand challenge as “Never having to manually recharge devices.”
Physicist Hatem Zeine has invented what he believes to be the answer to this challenge. The Cota wireless power transmission system uses intelligently steered phased array antennas to focus a beam of microwaves on a receiver module – and only on that module. The inherently safe technology can deliver electrical power up to 30 feet from a central transmitter without any line-of-sight requirement and without interfering with other devices. The system is projected to hit the market in 2015.
At Tech Crunch Disrupt 2013, Hatem Zeine pulled the curtain on the Ossia, Inc. development company by introducing the Cota wireless power transmission system. The Cota technology uses steered phased array microwave antennas and the time-reversal properties of electromagnetic radiation to focus several watts of power on a wireless receiver while preventing any of the radiation to hit obstacles, resulting in an inherently safe charging system.
Cota uses a single microwave transmitter, operating in the 2.4 or 5.8 GHz industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) bands that are also used by Wi-Fi routers. Unlike most wireless charging systems we’ve seen that require the close proximity between the transmitter and the device being charged, the Ossis transmitter will provide effective charging to distances of about 30 feet (9 m). This means that a single unit would suffice for most households and offices. The microwave power from the transmitter is directed onto charging receivers that convert the received power into a form that can be used to charge device batteries, or even to directly run portable devices.
The charger is housed in an 18″ cube while the receiver resides on a chip and uses a chip antenna for operation. The commercial version of the receiver will be small enough to fit inside a phone or even a AAA battery according to Zeine. The amount of electrical power that will initially be made available by a single receiver is expected to around 1 W (about a third the power transmitted via a USB socket), which is sufficient for charging multiple portable devices. However, the use of unmodulated RF power to transfer power does not seem to fall under any specific FCC regulation in the US. As Cota is not being used for telecommunication, the power which could be made available will be controlled by the general ISM regulations, which allow much larger power than the maximum one watt of a Wi-Fi router. Worldwide, of course, the limits will depend on local regulations.
The Cota system works by a clever combination of phased-array steering antennas on the transmitter and locator beacons on the receivers. In a room without obstacles, the RF radiation from the locator beacon (pulsed at 100 times/sec) travels directly from the receiver to the walls of the room. A portion of that radiation will strike the transmitter unit, whose electrically-steerable phased-array antennas (20,000 individually controlled antennas are being planned for the first commercial system) will not only detect the radiation, but also the direction from which it is arriving. This is similar in principle to the Lytro camera, which records the complete light field of a scene, rather than just the intensity of light at a particular surface.
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