Breaking Through the Invisible Barriers of Wireless Power Transfer

This is the part two of our series titled: “Did You Know…”, which highlights the latest applications and innovations being enabled by GaN technology. Read part one of the series, “Space Industry Launches with GaN Systems,” here. Read part three, “GaN: Taking Charge of Your Power Needs,” here.

Imagine a world without wires, where we are no longer tethered to electrical outlets to power our battery-powered equipment and devices. While this is what today’s wireless charging solutions promise, it isn’t our reality—as the more devices we have, the more wires and adapters we need to power them.

But does it have to be this way? Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) technology is evolving, with high frequency technology innovations breaking through the barriers of wireless power transfer, enabling a new generation of truly wireless “drop and connect” applications, wherever you go.

The Problem: Low Frequency WPT Technology is Restrictive 

Today’s wireless chargers use low frequency WPT technology, and are anything but wire-free. In fact, wireless mobile phone chargers can often be seen as little more than an extension to an electrical outlet.

Low frequency WPT technology comes with significant technical challenges, including limitations on where and how devices can be charged. The chargers can be difficult to use as they require extremely precise alignment between the device and the charging pad before enabling a charge. And as the location of the charging coil is dependent on the model of the phone, the necessary alignment is different for every device.

High frequency technology innovations are breaking through the barriers of wireless power transfer, enabling a new generation of truly wireless “drop and connect” applications, wherever you go.

The technology makes wireless charging pads extremely inefficient and slow to charge, using on average 47% more power than a cable. This means the device has to work harder, generate more heat, and use more energy when wirelessly charging to fill the same size battery. In addition, when low frequency WPT chargers are placed near metal (for example, a magnetic phone holder), the technology can create heat levels that are significant enough to damage the device, battery and/or the charging pad.

As people are always ‘on the go’, they can’t imagine being on the train or in their car without their mobile phones charged and operable. Unfortunately, wireless charging pads in transportation are doing nothing more than introducing new levels of frustration, especially for people in cars. Aside from the physical limitations relating to where devices can be placed to charge, a vehicle only needs to hit a bump or make a sudden stop for the phone alignment to be “off” and the device to stop charging. In addition, the low frequency WPT technology generates electromagnetic fields that have a negative influence on the KeyFob system, impacting vehicle door lock/open, trunk open/close and even engine start.

Wireless Power Transfer helps feed the world.

The Solution: High Frequency GaN-based Wireless Power Technology

High frequency WPT technology has always been the best option for wireless charging solutions, and GaN-based transistors have always been the best option for high frequency applications. However, until recently, GaN-based solutions weren’t commercially available.

Much progress has been made and GaN transistors now have the proven performance, as well as the market maturity, to enable new levels of innovation for a wide range of wireless charging applications.

High frequency GaN-based WPT technology removes the physical limitations associated with traditional solutions, offering spatial freedom for a worry free, drop-and-go experience: a wireless device will charge while placed on a charging pad – exact position is not an issue. GaN-based amplifiers are very efficient, generate minimal heat, and use operating frequencies that don’t interfere with other electronics. In addition, higher power levels are easier to achieve, opening up a broad array of applications to wireless power transfer and charging.

GaN transistors have enabled new levels of innovation in wireless power, with a wide range of GaN Powered consumer products being introduced to the market, including high-power wireless charging for autonomous aerial, mobile, marine, and industrial robots and drones. The latest GaN enabled innovations include in-cabin wireless charging for automotive interiors that are capable of powering multiple devices beyond 15W of power—without requiring physical contact with a charging pad. Other innovative applications include cordless power tools, safety and inspection drones, and through-wall data solutions that can provide power and data through walls for applications ranging from televisions to 5G.

GaN Systems’ transistors for high frequency WPT applications are enabling a world without wires. To learn more, see this overview: Analysis and Benefits of GaN in High Frequency WPT Applications.