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Wireless power system to work across large surfaces

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS have developed SUPA Wireless technology in association with the University of Paderborn and four technology partners.

SUPA – Smart Universal Power Antenna – is said to remove the need for electric cables for lamps, laptops or smartphones.

SUPA uses a principle similar to that of an induction cookers: a network of coils is fitted in a surface, each of which represents a transmitting antenna. When electricity flows through these coils, they generate a magnetic field which induces electricity into the coil fitted in receiving device.

Rather than having electricity available only at a specific point on the surface, the researchers wanted it to be available anywhere. One solution would be to install a giant coil in the surface, but the researchers opted for a different route. "We populate a pcb with numerous antennas in such a way that a magnetic field is generated only under the surface of the receiver," said Dr Christian Hedayat, department head at Fraunhofer ENAS. "The distances between the antennas and their dimensions are carefully chosen to produce a homogeneous field."

Only those antennas directly beneath the receiver are switched on; the rest stay switched off. Dr Hedayat said there are two approaches to this: one physical one, the other numerical. "The physical approach is based on the fact that the antennas perceive the receiver as a specific load."

However, the research team is also working on the numerical approach, in which the antenna 'interrogates' the receiver, asks for identification and whether it is entitled to receive energy. Part of the process may include how much energy the receiver needs.

A future development will allow data to be transmitted using the same approach. "We don't transmit just energy, but data too," said Dr Hedayat. And it is possible that SUPA Wireless technology could find application in in medical systems, including the supply of energy to implants.

Graham Pitcher

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