Wireless Charging System Demonstrated on iPhone: Bye Bye Batteries

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One of the biggest drags of the iPhone – its battery — may one day be supplemented with a wireless charging system that recharges the device in your pocket or bag when you walk in the room.

At the TED Global conference in Oxford on Thursday, Eric Giler, CEO of Witricity, demonstrated an iPhone being recharged wirelessly by his company’s new system.

“You’d never have to worry about plugging these things in again,” he said.

Giler explained the system to the BBC (see the video above). He says the technology could be on the market within 18 months.

Witricity’s wireless charging system is based on the physics of “electromagnetic resonance,” the same principle that makes a wine glass shatter when an opera singer hits the right note.

But instead of sound energy, Witricity’s system transports power over electromagnetic waves. The system has two parts: A transmitter unit, plugged into a wall outlet, which uses a vibrating coil to create a resonant magnetic field. In the target gadget, a matching coil tuned to the same frequency transforms electromagnetic vibrations into juice for the device.

The system works without any physical contact. Other wireless charging systems, like Palm’s Touchstone, require contact between the gadget and the charging base.

The system is claimed to be safe, and will charge gadgets and devices within range, including bigger electronics like flat-screen TVs. Giler demonstrated a TV running on wireless power that is commercially-available.

Giler also showed the system recharging a T-Mobile G1 phone, which had all the components packed inside. The iPhone had to be fitted with a special sled.

“They don’t make it easy at Apple to get inside their phones so we put a little sleeve on the back,” he said.