How does wireless charging work?

This is my two hundred and fiftieth (writing it out in full looks better than 250th) article on Technology Bloggers! It’s taken nearly four and a quarter years to get this far, but here I am, still blogging away. :-)
That’s an average of 5 posts per month!

Not that anyone’s keeping score, but Jonny is hot on my heals now with 165 – just 85 behind me!

Finally, wireless charging on a mainstream mobile phone has arrived. Samsung’s Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and S6 Active all come wireless charging ready. Unfortunately we aren’t yet at the stage where your phone can wirelessly charge in your pocket, you do have to buy a wireless charging pad and have it sit on that, but it’s a step further than we have ever been before. This article gives an incite into the technology behind wireless charging, and then in my next article I’m going to review Samsung’s official wireless charging pad.

Wireless Charging Technology

Tesla coil wireless power

A Tesla Coil being used to wirelessly power a light bulb

The capability to power things wirelessly is not a new phenomenon. Way back in the late 1800s, Nikola Tesla was using his Tesla Coil to power things from across the room. You might have done a similar experiment in science lessons at school, using a Tesla Coil to light up a light bulb.

The reason it’s taken so long for wireless charging to become mass market is because compared to wired charging, it is hugely inefficient. Wireless charging wastes a lot of energy as heat, meaning less is used to actually power the device. Wireless charging also takes longer than wired power, and as such is much more expensive.

Plugging my phone (the Galaxy S6) into a standard micro USB port will charge it from flat in around 2 hours. Plugging it into a fast charger takes just over an hour for a full charge. Charging wirelessly from flat takes over 3 hours. That’s 3 hours of electricity being used, compared to 1 in a fast charger.

Wireless charging has also taken a whole to become mainstream because of problems with proximity. Tesla could power a light bulb from across the room, but that wasn’t controllable. If he had 2 light bulbs and only wanted to power one, he had no way of stopping power reaching the other. With so many different devices and radio frequencies about today, it is essential that wireless charging works without interfering with any other signals – for example your mobiles 4G signal. As such wireless charging has a very low proximity range. My S6 quite literally has to be on or within an inch or two of the pad to charge. A range of 1 meter would be fantastic, however that could fry other bits of tech, or ruin the magnetic strip on my credit cards.

Despite over 100 years in the making, wireless charging is still in reasonable early stages of development. It is a great idea, and when it works, it is super convenient and very useful, but still has a long way to go.

If you want to find out more about how wireless charging works, I recommend this YouTube video as a good place to start.

Dinosaur Developments

boston museum

Dinosaurs

Like many Bostonians a great deal of my time in that fair city was spent in the Museum of Science. It is a fine museum, well suited to children. They have some incredible lightening making machines, a bed of nails that you can try out yourself, and lots of dinosaurs.

And outside the front door they have a model of a T Rex, you can see it in the photo. This model T Rex was built and placed in 1972, and here lies a story. We might feel that this great beast has been part of our culture for many years, it was first described in 1905, but the first almost full skeleton was only found in 1990 in South Dakota.

Now if you look at the model you see an upstanding T Rex, but the model is not a good replica. These dinosaurs did not stand erect like that, they were much more laid back in their posture due to their size and a considerable tail.

Here below we see the reconstruction of Sue, the first almost complete skeleton brought to life in 1990 and mentioned above. Now Sue is well balanced, looks even more ferocious, and somewhat resembles a flightless bird. Just think how quickly science is developing!

Meet Sue

Meet Sue

Birds and chickens

So here I get to the meat on the bones. Birds seem to have evolved from dinosaurs, some dinosaurs even had feathers, and recently scientists have managed to create a chicken embryo with a dinosaur-like snout and palate, similar to that of small feathered dinosaurs like Velociraptor. The results are published in the journal Evolution. You can read the abstract here.

They did not hatch the embryo, but manipulated genes that deal with facial development in birds, until the beak started to look more like a dinosour or aligator mouth. See the photo below taken from the BBC article on this story.

From Beak to Snout

From Beak to Snout

This is an interesting line of research. I am not worried about a Jurassic Park scenario, but it does seem to open a world of opportunities , and I am not sure that all of them have been explored. I wonder how far it could go?

Experiences of an Online Conference

adobe

Online Conference

Last month I attended a conference with a difference, The INSS annual meeting was held in 5 different cities at the same time, as well as online, in an attempt to cut down on travel for participants. I attended the London site and was one of only 2 people to fly to the event. This is remarkable considering that last year we all met in North Carolina and dozens of people flew internal and trans continental legs.

The physical Conference was held at UNC Charlotte in North Carolina, Oregon State university, Arizona State University, Michigan State University and University College London.

Very much an experiment, the practicalities of conducting a conference over several different time zones posed some issues, with early starts for those on the US West Coast and late finishes for those in Europe. The technology worked incredibly well, with very few glitches over the days’ events. Participants were able to ask questions, follow seminars in any of the sites they chose, and interact with the poster and key note presenters using online media.

The event was run out of North Carolina, and the web management was all taken care of from that site. I must say that I was rather skeptical at the beginning, having lived with Skype developments over the years, but how wrong could I be?

Communication Technology

The communication was taken care of using Adobe Connect, so anyone could participate through their own computer or by visiting any of the sites. We in London lost the last 5 minutes of a discussion after one of the lectures, but for the rest it all worked perfectly.

Now as someone who travels to a lot of these kinds of things I can only marvel at the progress made. Each site shared some seminars and papers, but all had different agendas. The London agenda included a day of field trips, as well as as a panel during which presenters discussed their experiences of building the Engineering Exchange, a university lead action group whose aim is to bridge the gap between communities and planners preparing urban regeneration projects. Read the abstract here.

We also toured some of the capital’s largest redevelopment projects, including a visit to Crossrail, a huge rail link and urban regeneration project that cuts through central London. A guided tour of the Elephant and Castle redevelopment area with the interest group “Social Life” followed, a context of urban regeneration that has caused many locals to question both existing and future plans in that area.

The context was also helped by the involvement of a member of a local interest group that aims to support people whose houses are under threat, and promote the idea of refitting houses to maintain communities, rather than rehousing and rebuilding. There is a lot more to think about in urban regeneration that you might imagine.

The Network

The closing panel was hosted in Charlotte and entitled Social Sustainability Initiatives in Planning and engineering Organization. Full details of all the participating site agendas can be found on the INSS website.

The network is open to all interested in participating, so keep an eye on the website for further information. We volunteer our time, we learn a lot, we try to raise social sustainability issues, and we always have a bit of a social at every event. I must say that the multi-site format was a worthy experiment that worked extremely well, and I think could offer a model for future events. Is the era of the online conference coming to life? Looks like it to me.

Bacteria, Fungus and Decomposition (and growing new materials)

Maurizio

Bacteria, fungus and decomposition.

Doesn’t sound like a great start for a technology blog. But last week I was fortunate to visit a lab in Utrecht University where rather unsurprisingly I learned a lot about decomposition, fungus and how to grow innovative new materials.

A young Italian designer runs the lab, this is him above, working on the border between art and biology. His name is Maurizio Montalti, founder of the “Officina Corpuscoli” in Amsterdam (2010), whose goal is not only to produce beautiful artifacts, but to stimulate thought about the central aspects of design (above all the use of materials) and to provoke questions about much more. The nature of humans (the relationship between life and death) or the nature of progress and its relationship to the world and its ecosystem.

Materials

The lab is the point of departure. Here he showed me different materials with different properties, all grown from fungi. Some is like plastic, can be transparent and in sheet form, and others look and feel a bit like skin, some looks like polystyrene.

Grown Pellet

A Grown Pellet

The choice of materials is central to the idea of the project. The materials that are currently favoured in design such as plastic, foam and metals, are produced using industrial processes that are detrimental to the environment. Maurizio wanted to raise this issue for discussion, and so he began his fungus interest.

For the designer the beauty and fascination for fungus lies in its role in nature. He told me that fungi are everywhere, in the soil and in the air, but we associate them with revulsion, disgust and danger, and we minimize their importance, whereas in fact they are fundamental for decomposition, transformation and recycling. He is interested in its role as re-cycler of biological materials.

Synthetic Biology

And the holy grail: the System Synthetics project, turning plastic waste into energy. Maurizio was interested in crossing fungal capacities to degrade with that of yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, forcing them into symbiosos, to create a microorganism able to decompose plastic materials and give back energy in liquid form (bioethonol produced by the yeast). It is a synthetic biology program whose objective is to provoke questions about the potentials and implications for this discipline (very much a work in progress, whose aim is to involve a wider public in the synthetic biology debate).

other forms

other forms

I would like to add that Maurizio is part of an informal network of “fungicites”, here find an article of a start up in the USA that is producing bricks from bacteria, cutting out the clay and baking process and making it a much more sustainable product.

Read more about Maurizio here, including photos and an interview.