Researchers from North Carolina State University have come up with a system that can deliver high amounts of power and transmit high amounts of data fast enough to stream effectively over the same wireless connection. David Ricketts is senior author on the paper and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State. Here’s what he has to say about the new technology: “One of the most popular applications is in wireless cell phone charging pads. As many knows, these unfortunately often require almost physical contact with the pad, limiting the usefulness of a truly ‘wireless’ power source.”

Ricketts also confirms how past research has allowed wireless power to extend to mid-range. However, most of these systems only ever focus on supplying a decent amount of power and forget about the data part of the equation. “Addressing those data needs is what sets our work apart here,” he confirms. The way that wireless power transfer technologies work is through the use of magnetic fields that transmit power through the air. To limit the amount of power that gets lost in these magnetic fields antennas are used. The problem with this is that it also limits data transfer. There are ways around this which is normally through the use of a separate system, but this will increase the cost, weight, and complexity of the device.

Although using very narrow band antenna couldn’t really be avoided, the NC State team realized that they could increase the system bandwidth. “People thought that efficient wireless power transfer requires the use of narrow bandwidth transmitters and receivers and that this, therefore, limited data transfer,” said Ricketts. “We’ve shown that you can configure a wide-bandwidth system with narrow-bandwidth components, giving you the best of both worlds.”

Using the wider bandwidth, the researchers tested their system both with and without data transfer. What they discovered was that the system was only 2.3 percent less efficient when transferring around 3 watts of power as it was when transmitting 3.39 megabytes of data per second. The difference was only 1.3 percent when transferring 2 watts of power. “Our system is comparable in power transfer efficiency to similar wireless power transfer devices, and shows that you can design a wireless power link system that retains almost all of its efficiency while streaming a movie on Netflix,” says Ricketts.

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