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Mobile Communications

Largest European chip-maker partners for wireless charging

Europe's largest semiconductor chip maker, ST Microelectronics (ST), has partnered with Massachusetts-based WiTricity to develop integrated circuits for wireless power transfer.

WiTricity pointed to the deal as indicative of how chip makers are taking note of wireless charging as a new source of revenue while helping roll out the technology across products.

Virtually all major chip makers have joined wireless charging development consortia, such as the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) and the Wireless Power Alliance (WPA). Last year, the A4WP and PMA joined forces to form the AirFuel Alliance.

Powermat

Smartphones wirelessly charging via the Powermat specification in a Starbucks coffee shop.

ST's semiconductor offerings would include designs that comply with the AirFuel magnetic resonance specification (for charging over slight distances) as well as multi-mode solutions that incorporate both resonant and inductive charging (contact charging).

The goal, the companies stated in a news release, is to "cut the last cord," bringing convenience to the powering and charging of consumer electronics, internet of things (IoT) devices, as well as medical, industrial, and automotive applications.

ST already manufactures wireless charging transmitter and receiver chip-sets based on the Qi and Power Matters Association (PMA) standards that provide up to one watt to charge slim form-factor devices such as Fitbit activity monitors.

"Combining the expertise of WiTricity... with ST's resources and key IP, including Smart Power technologies and RF Bluetooth low energy, allows us to deliver complete, efficient wireless-charging solutions that increase convenience and ease of use," Matteo Lo Presti, ST's Analog and MEMS Group general manager.

WiTricity recently announced wireless "park-and-charge" development kits using its 11kW charging IP for electric and hybrid-vehicles.

Evatran

Evatran, a wireless charging technology company that helped with the research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, sells a 3.3-kilowatt wireless charging system for the Nissan Leaf.

Based in Watertown, Mass., WiTricity licenses its magnetic resonance wireless charging intellectual property (IP) to manufacturers. In 2014, for example, WiTricity penned an IP license agreement with Toyota Motor Corp. Under the agreement, Toyota is expected to offer wireless charging for future rechargeable plug-in hybrid electric and fully electric vehicles.

WiTricity's charging technology offers up to 25 kilowatts (kW), with the company's systems for passenger cars outputting from 3.3kW to 11kW while systems for fleets and small buses are in the 10kW to 25kW range.

Earlier this year, ST and WiTricity demonstrated high-power wireless-transfer technology for electric vehicle charging at the Applied Power Electronics 2016 conference in Long Beach, Calif.

"Technology from this ST and WiTricity collaboration will enable product designers across the globe to rid the world of cumbersome wires and charging cables and allow us to promote a broader set of our own semiconductor offerings into these emerging markets," Presti said.

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