Earlier today we published an article about a rumor that the next iPhone would have wireless charging. I think we all agree that would be a great thing. Now there are reports that Apple filed for a patent in 2015 on a system for Wi-Fi charging. So we’re clear, just because there is a patent for this doesn’t mean that Wi-Fi charging will be on the iPhone 8. What I did find interesting about this patent from Apple is a story we published in 2013. The story centered around two Duke University students who were developing a system that could charge devices over Wi-Fi. That story has been one of our most popular and most shared articles ever on this site.
The device can wirelessly convert Wi-Fi’s microwave signals into direct current voltage to recharge a cell phone battery or other small electronic devices. Key to this power harvester are the metamaterials, which are engineered structures that can capture various forms of wave energy and tune them for useful applications. These energy sources could include satellite signals, sound signals or Wi-Fi (wireless) signals.
In an age when we are swimming in a sea of wireless broadband and cellular networks, this device could allow us to keep charging our phones no matter where we are. What’s more, it is actually more efficient than plugging in your device. In their tests, Hawkes and Katko wired together a series of five fiberglass and copper energy conductors on a circuit board to convert microwaves into 7.3 volts of electricity, whereas USB is limited to 5 volts. It also has an energy conversion efficiency of 36.8 percent—comparable to a solar cell.
The researchers say the material could also be applied to make our homes more energy efficient. A metamaterial coating could be applied to the ceiling of a room to redirect and recover a Wi-Fi signal that would otherwise be lost. However, the technology is still in progress. Hawkes and Katkoare are working on perfecting the technology to make the metamaterials operable inside of a cell phone.
Here’s what Slashgear had to say about the recent surfacing of the Apple patent filed back in 2015.
Filed all the way back in 2015, an Apple patent suggests that long-range wireless device charging might be possible. This patent suggests that Apple might use patch antennas to transfer power wirelessly. They’d transfer power at microwave frequencies (or other frequencies) and could also be used “to support millimeter wave communications.” While filed back in 2015, this patent application was first published today, April 27th, 2017.
The publication number for this patent is US 2017/0117754 A1, and can be found with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as such. While it was suggested that this wireless charging technology could be used to increase the range at which wireless charging can be done effectively, it also claimed a few other, more grounded angles. The background for this patent said that Apple’s aim is to provide systems with improved wireless circuitry, quite plainly.
Now, that all being said. I’ve attempted to contact both Allen Hawkes and Alexander Katko over the past year to follow up on our initial story, but have never gotten a response. I do wonder if Apple may be using (some or all of) their research to make Wi-Fi charging a reality. I will be reaching out to Apple for comment on the possibility. Hopefully, we’ll get an answer, most likely we won’t.