wireless charging No cables attached: electricity transmitted wirelessly
Electric cars, plug-in hybrid vehicles, robots, and industrial machines can soon be charged with high power using wireless transmission. The aim is to replace the power cables needed to charge electric vehicles and in industrial applications with wireless power transmission - a technology that is making rapid progress thanks to intensive investment in research and development.
Smartphones, electric toothbrushes, and similar consumer devices already have variants with wireless power transmission. In the industrial sector, on the other hand, wireless power transmission has so far been somewhat hesitant. The decisive difference here is the power to be transmitted, which in the industry is in the kilowatt range, while in the consumer market, it is usually only a few watts. The industrial breakthrough requires better management building blocks, consistent and standardized design architecture, and more robust materials.
Wireless Power Transmission in the Industrial Internet of Things
Parallel to the growth in industrial automation and autonomous systems, the need for wireless transmission of high power is developing. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the innovation driver here, as wireless power transmission will play a decisive role. The exponentially increasing number of networked machines, computers, and sensors, which make everything possible more intelligent and efficient, holds both opportunities and challenges for many industries.
Wireless power transmission will make these applications more mobile, and the elimination of plugs and jacks will also wholly seal the devices, allowing them to operate reliably in a wide variety of environments, including the most demanding.
Industrial robots, for example, will be able to move autonomously from one station to another to be where they are needed and recharge when and where it suits them best.
"Wireless power is the future," says Manish Bhardwaj, Senior Systems Engineer at Texas Instruments, part of a team working on the essential components needed for wireless power systems. "When we remove cables from autonomous applications in factories, robotics, aerospace, and automotive applications, we open up a wide range of possibilities.
Wireless power transmission makes old dreams come true
Cables that are installed over floors, walls, and furnishings - at least unattractive and sometimes disturbing - have become part of everyday life since power tools and other industrial electrical appliances became part of the working world.
The limited mobility of the devices is a hindrance, and every connector is subject to wear and tear and is susceptible to the ingress of water, dirt, and air. Cables pose a significant hazard to people and machinery in many areas as they must always move around them.
The initially utopian idea of wireless power transmission has existed since the early development of electrical innovations. Nikola Tesla, a brilliant and eccentric inventor, already described his vision of a wireless power grid at the end of the 19th century. His experiments were unsuccessful, but others developed the idea further, and in the 20th century, there was progress in the transmission of electricity. However, wireless power transmission was brought to market in recent years.
Inductive transmission of electricity through the air
The principle of induction is the basis for wireless energy transmission. The simple, functional principle: one transmitter coil couples with another receiver coil, which is located at a defined distance depending on the system. The two coils form a virtual transformer. The transmitter coil emits energy in the form of an electromagnetic field with which an electric current is generated in the receiver coil. Thus, a battery connected to the receiver coil can be charged.
Wireless power transmission systems are, of course, much more complex and, above all, dealing with the higher powers required for applications in the manufacturing and automotive industries presents developers with further challenges. The multiple conversion of current, antennas that amplify electromagnetic waves and are necessary for controlling electricity are just a few of the elements needed to make wireless power transmission safe and usable.
A digital brain is the brain center of the system
Digital applications are a prerequisite for controlling and operating this complex system of parameters such as frequency, amplitude, and phase of the electromagnetic waves. Kilowatt outputs for industrial processes or for charging electric vehicles further increase the corresponding requirements.
In this context, real-time microcontrollers from Texas Instruments are vital components that are widely used. C2000 series microcontrollers are arranged in the transmitter and receiver to coordinate energy transfer. Communication is carried out via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The system is automatically tuned to the C2000 MCUs by capturing the transmitter's input voltage, battery requirements, or other factors and adapting to changing power requirements and power supply.
One of the industry leaders in wireless power transmission Knowmax Technology Ltd. from Taiwan uses the intelligent control functions of the C2000 MCUs.
"The C2000 MCUs give us the flexibility to adapt our systems to different markets," explains Tank Huang, project manager at Knowmax, "The devices allow us to precisely control our power levels to make power transmission as efficient as possible.
Texas Instruments develops components that intelligently handle the transfer of more and more power over ever-greater distances between transmitter and receiver. These targeted developments to improve wireless power transmission technology put Texas Instruments in a good position for the future use of wireless power transmission in robots, industrial utility and warehouse vehicles, electric cars as well as more extensive fleet and construction vehicles.
Intending to be the market leader in the critical equipment that enables high-power wireless transmission, researchers at Texas Instruments are bringing.
"The air is undoubtedly full of excitement for all those currently involved in wireless power transmission," explains Chris Clearman, product marketing engineer at Texas Instruments responsible for C2000 MCUs. "Soon, engineers will no longer have to look for the right place for high-voltage connectors in their plans. People will be traveling in electric cars that no longer have to be plugged into a power outlet to charge, and factory workers will be working alongside wirelessly charged robots. So if you think about it right, we're working on a technology that will reach every person and every industry in the world in the long run."
This article was first published in German by Elektronikpraxis.