Thursday, October 04, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Just how DOES wireless charging work?

I've been thinking about getting a wireless charging station. Partly just because I want to have one; partly because I don't like to remove my AA rechargeable batteries every time I have to recharge them; partly because a part of me thinks that they're likely "green" or something. Of course, I know that I don't need a wireless charger, since most of my battery-operated items share their charging cables (either miniUSB or microUSB) and the rest of them are AA or AAA rechargeable batteries. I also suspect that the current rechargeable batteries that I own can't become recharged without removing them from their appliances, anyway, thus making moot the main points that I had for purchasing them. (A sneaking part of me has always felt that these aren't any more "green" than what I own, either.)

However, here comes a post from PhysOrg that - through the touting of Nokia's new smart phones - explains how wireless charging works. It's basically the process of electrostatic induction:
A transmitter coil is positioned at the bottom (L1) and the receiver coil (L2) is situated at the top and these coils are embedded into different electrical devices. L1 would be the ... Charging Plate and L2 would be the [device]...

An alternating current in the transmitter coil generates a magnetic field, which induces a voltage in the receiver coil. This voltage is then used to charge up the device.

According to Wikipedia, electrostatic induction was first described by the Swedish professor Johan Carl Wilcke in 1762. The first documentation of using this process for wireless charging was published in 1999. I suppose that sometime technological processes take a couple of centuries to begin to mature, which means that we have no idea about the future impacts of what we think of today as a mere "curiosity" of science. (We likely have little knowledge now of how this process of wireless charging will affect how we use energy storage, either.)

On the point of language, in the story on PhysOrg, there mentioned a wireless charging standard out there called "Qi":
Nokia has adopted the Qi (pronounced chi) standard in their wireless charging devices. Qi was created by the Wireless Power Consortium and is used by over 100 different companies around the world, and is the only globally adopted interface. Plus, because it's used globally, you'll be able to charge up wirelessly in different places around the world.
 What's interesting about this (to me at least) is three things:
  1. The choice of the Pinyin spelling, "Qi", over the more legible Wade-Giles, "Ch'i",  or the simplified Wade-Giles, "Chi". I guess that it is likely due to its priority use in Qina China.
  2. The choice of the Far Eastern , a metaphysical analogue of the West's aether/ether to describe energy movement filling the air is kind of interesting; it shows that there is an interest in the West for inclusion of Eastern concepts, but it also hints at the growing dominance of the Far East in areas of technological development. (I wonder if the spelling will be in Latin script in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China, or if they will resolve the concept into their respective scripts.)
  3. The prior use of the term "ether" in high tech was to assign it to the faster-than-telephone (but wired) connection to the Internet: ethernet. This effectively puts the term "ether" out of play until the concept of the ethernet falls into obscurity. In a similar way, if Qi becomes massively widespread, then it will leave an indelible stamp on technological jargon. This will then mean that it will unlikely find use in another, newer, process, thus allowing for another culture's analogous concept to qi/aether to arise and be used. This leapfrogging of different cultures to the front of the technological jargon "queue" is kind of an interesting thing to watch, and if things work out for India, then we could well be talking about "prana" or "akasha" systems.

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