Disney Tips Hat to Tesla, Creates Wireless Charging

Echoes Tesla's idea for universal power
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PITTSBURGH—The folks at Disney Labs have come up with a way to charge electronics without using the dreaded power cable.

“Quasistatic cavity resonance,” or QSCR, is said to wirelessly transmit power throughout a room that enables recharging through Wi-Fi, “eliminating the need for electrical cords or charging cradles.”

USCR was inspired by something the great Serbian-American genius, Nikola Tesla, once proposed to provide universal free electricity to the world—essentially bouncing a standing electromagnetic wave between the ground and the ionosphere. The Disney crew scaled it down a bit, and set up a standing electromagnetic wave in a purpose-built, metal-lined 16-by-16 foot room at the lab. Researchers referred to the process colloquially as “volumetric wireless power for livable spaces.”

“What we really want is a three-dimensional charging experience where you walk into your living room or office and your cellphone is charged simply by walking in,” said Alanson Sample, associate lab director and principal research scientist at the Disney Research Pittsburgh facility.

Matt Chabalko, associate research scientist, described how a copper pipe was installed in the center of the room that was cut and fitted with discrete capacitors that “set the electromagnetic frequency infrastructure and confine the electric fields.”

At the resonance frequency, Chabalko said currents travel through pole at 1.3 million times per second. The currents travel up across the ceiling, down the walls and back across the floor to the pole again. These currents generate magnetic fields that circulate around the pole, he said.

Receivers used in this initial set-up had to be oriented perpendicular to the magnetic fields. Researchers created “orientation independence,” according to Chabalko, by setting up three coils in a three-coil orthogonal system.

While the experiments demonstrated room-sized wireless power, Sample said, “there’s no reason we couldn’t shrink this down the size of a toy box or charging chest, or scale up to a warehouse or a large building.”

Chabalko said the electromagnetic field was safe for human exposure by federal standards.

“Our simulations show that when you transmit 1.9 kilowatts power while meeting federal safety guidelines,” he said. “This means it’s completely safe for people to occupy this space for any amount of time.”

Disney said channeling the induced currents through discrete capacitors isolates potentially harmful electrical fields. The 1.9 kW power level is equal to simultaneously charging 320 smartphones, Chabalko said.

Chabalko and Sample were joined in the work by Mohsen Shahmohammadi, lab associate at Disney Research. Their “Quasistatic Cavity Resonance for Ubiquitous Wireless Power Transfer” research paper and data sets, as well as illustrations, are available at the Disney’s website as well as at the Public Library of Science.