Murata Switched to Capacitive Coupling to Meet Increasing Needs
We made an earlier start in developing electromagnetic induction. But just when a charging system for smartphones that incorporated our technology was ready for launch, an overseas manufacturer premiered a new product capable of charging three mobile terminals at the same time. The competing charger also carried a pretty low price, which left us in the dust. Around that time, an organization named Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) was established to standardize electromagnetic induction technology. It was aimed at accelerating the use of wireless power transmission by opening software and control expertise. This forced us into choosing between a competitive strategy of opening our technology or following an entirely new path.
We made the decision to cancel development of electromagnetic induction and switch to capacitive coupling, which was then being perfected as a unique Murata technology. To enhance development, the in-house open recruit system was employed to increase the team to eight members. Our technology was very popular at CEATEC JAPAN, suggesting increased public awareness of wireless power transmission, and we completed a module that Hitachi Maxell introduced in a consumer product. Pricing was the only problem. Hitachi Maxell planned to set the sales price at 15,000 yen, and we wondered if consumers would see such high value in the mere function of charging. It was launched with this concern, but in the end it managed to achieve relatively high evaluation in the market. As an engineer, however, I feel development has just started and that this technology still has much room for improvement.
Lowering Prices Through Downsizing Could Rapidly Increase Market Share
Due to its operating principles, capacitive coupling technology is thought to easily allow for smaller size and lower profile. Smaller size means lower price, and downsizing is one of Murata's strengths. Of course, additional functions such as rapid charging and mobile wallet will accelerate the use of chargers based on our wireless power transmission technology. Capacitive coupling is available only from Murata; and because we have no competitors here, I think any technical breakthrough could trigger a rapid spread.
The market for wireless power transmission will expand quickly as prices are reduced. The convenience of being able to charge mobile terminals by simply placing them around the charger is much in need at home, work, and a broad range of store locations. A possible further application would be a charger integrated into the center console of a car. Simply placing your mobile phone on the console would allow recharging while you drive. It could be used to recharge electric vehicles, too, by adapting the transformer and power supply. Unlike electromagnetic induction, it eliminates the need to align the terminal with the charger. This is going to be a great advantage that could open up a large market with a public that is very interested in contactless power transmission. This is why we are going to accelerate our technical development process even further.
Market for Wireless Technology
With an increasing need for ubiquitous applications, the market for wireless technologies is expected to grow rapidly. Wireless power transmission is one such technology. After being confined to electric toothbrushes and cordless handsets, it quickly attracted enthusiastic attention when it was introduced in a smartphone in the summer of 2011; and it has the potential to open up an enormous market after its expected introduction into electric vehicles in the future.
Wireless Power Transmission Module
The new Murata wireless power transmission module can supply 10W of power to enable contactless charging. Murata's capacitive coupling wireless power transmission modules have two sets of asymmetric dipoles consisting of active and passive electrodes positioned vertically on the transmitting and receiving sides. Power is transmitted through an induction field generated by coupling the two sets of asymmetric dipoles. This configuration ensures wireless power transmission with high positional freedom and efficiency (Patent Number: PCT/FR2006/000614).