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May 23, 2011

Metamaterial Could Facilitate Wireless Power

Electrical engineers at Duke University have determined that unique man-made materials should theoretically make it possible to improve the power transfer to small devices, such as laptops or cell phones, or ultimately to larger ones, such as cars or elevators, without wires.

This advance is made possible by the recent ability to fabricate exotic composite materials known as metamaterials, which are not so much a single substance, but an entire man-made structure that can be engineered to exhibit properties not readily found in nature. In fact, the metamaterial used in earlier Duke studies, and which would likely be used in future wireless power transmission systems, resembles a miniature set of tan Venetian blinds.

Physical Review B - Metamaterial-enhanced coupling between magnetic dipoles for efficient wireless power transfer

Arxiv - Metamaterial-enhanced coupling between magnetic dipoles for efficient wireless power transfer (23 pages)



Nonradiative coupling between conductive coils is a candidate mechanism for wireless energy transfer applications. In this paper we propose a power relay system based on a near-field metamaterial superlens and present a thorough theoretical analysis of this system. We use time-harmonic circuit formalism to describe all interactions between two coils attached to external circuits and a slab of anisotropic medium with homogeneous permittivity and permeability. The fields of the coils are found in the point-dipole approximation using Sommerfeld integrals which are reduced to standard special functions in the long-wavelength limit. We show that, even with a realistic magnetic loss tangent of order 0.1, the power transfer efficiency with the slab can be an order of magnitude greater than free-space efficiency when the load resistance exceeds a certain threshold value. We also find that the volume occupied by the metamaterial between the coils can be greatly compressed by employing magnetic permeability with a large anisotropy ratio.

We currently have the ability to transmit small amounts of power over short distances, such as in radio frequency identification (RFID) devices,” said Yaroslav Urzhumov, assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. “However, larger amounts of energy, such as that seen in lasers or microwaves, would burn up anything in its path.

“Based on our calculations, it should be possible to use these novel metamaterials to increase the amount of power transmitted without the negative effects,” Urzhumov said.

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