Scientists at MIT have invented a new device that can sense where your phone is and fire a magnetic field in its direction to keep it charged up. No plugging in required, ever.
MagMIMO senses where your phone is and fires a targeted magnetic field to keep it charged up – so you’ll never have to plug in again.
Wireless chargers might already exist, but they’re not as flexible as you might expect. “With charging pads, you have to remember to take your phone out of your pocket and place it on the pad, positioned in exactly the right way,” lead researcher from MIT, Dina Katabi, told Hal Hodson at New Scientist. “In our vision we wanted to have people’s phone charge the minute they are sitting next to their desk: they go to a meeting, they come back, the phone starts charging again.”
The MagMIMO prototype has solved the orientation problem - it doesn’t matter which way your phone is facing, and it don’t need to remain still, so you can be using it while it charges. Right now the phone can be charged at a distance of 30 centimetres, and the team is working on increasing that range.
The device works almost like good old-fashioned radio communications, where Wi-Fi routers pick up on a computer connecting with them and then increase the signal right back. But instead of using radio waves, the MagMIMO uses magnetic fields. “An array of wire coils generates a magnetic field and when a phone disrupts that field, MagMIMO senses it and focuses on the phone by creating a slightly different field with each coil,” Hodson says at New Scientist. “The magnetic fields reinforce each other so as to maximise the strength of the overall field reaching the phone.”
The magnetic field creates an electrical current in the coil, which charges any nearby phones.
At the recent International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking in Hawaii, the team reported that from a distance of 30 centimetres, they can charge a completely dead iPhone 4 to 100 percent in five hours. It uses no more power than current chargers, but can automatically start working on your phone, even if it’s still sitting in your pocket.
This is a pretty exciting development, because it’s pointing towards a future where we’ll never have to plug anything in; in fact, we’ll never even have to think about charging our devices, because we’ll have wireless power everywhere, just like Wi-Fi is right now.