14 Nov 2013

Wireless Power Transmission

From Our Changing World, 9:06 pm on 14 November 2013

Wireless power transmission wins 2013 Prime Minister's Science Prize

Two University of Auckland engineers, Grant Covic and John Boys, received the $500,000 top award for developing a wireless power transfer system.

PM Award Profile For nearly three decades, the pair have been pioneering inductive power transfer technology, or IPT. Often told that their idea for transferring electricity without cables was both impossible and crazy, they left many early funding meetings empty-handed. But they refused to let initial scepticism put them off and, in 1990, Japanese company Daifuku took a chance and invested significantly in their research, which is licensed through the university’s commercial arm, Auckland UniServices Ltd.

With IPT, electrical power can be delivered without electrical contact to stationary or moving loads.The first solutions were applied to industrial applications for moving vehicles in factory clean rooms, industrial plants and in theme parks. More recently the pair’s technology has been re-developed to enable battery charging of electric vehicles without the need to plug in. In May 2010, the spin-out company HaloIPT began developing the technology further for electric vehicles and, in late 2011, it was sold to Qualcomm, a United States Fortune 500 company.

The resulting return to Auckland Uniservices is more than 50 times the original pre-seed investment and it is believed to be the most successful deal for any New Zealand university or crown research institute start-up company. The next frontier for the engineers is to develop in-road wireless charging, eliminating the need for plug-in battery chargers and enabling cars to recharge as they travel along highways. They aim to lower the cost and battery weight, increase the power and make cars more efficient while using green energy, such as solar or wind.