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Powercast’s Chipset and RF Energy Harvesting Reference Design Enable Low-Cost Wireless Power over Distance

Powercast Corporation, a provider of innovative wireless power technology, today announced its RF-based wireless power chipset and reference design for embedded, low-power, wireless charging applications. The chipset and reference design, available for license, will make it easy and more affordable for OEMs to embed Powercast’s core RF energy-harvesting technology into their battery-less, or rechargeable battery-based devices, enabling RF energy (radio waves) to perpetually power them. Powercast’s embedded technology will convert RF energy received from either dedicated RF transmitters or ambient sources (such as mobile phones) into DC power. This wireless, embedded power supply then powers or charges its devices from within, eliminating connectors, charging contacts, and the need to replace batteries. Applications include wireless sensors for remote monitoring, portable electronic devices, and other low-power devices.

The chipset and reference design enable OEMs to directly embed the same functionality provided by the company’s P1110 or P2110 Powerharvester® receivers, but with more flexibility in terms of footprint and frequency selection, and at significantly lower cost. The energy-harvesting reference design converts RF energy to DC down to -12dBm of input power over a frequency range from 1MHz to 6GHz, and provides an output up to 5V to either trickle-charge batteries, or power battery-less devices.

The chipset consists of Powercast’s three custom chips for RF-to-DC conversion and power management. The licensable reference design contains all design files needed to embed the Powerharvester functionality and 100 sample chipsets for prototyping. Customers may use any 1MHz to 6GHz RF transmitter of sufficient power with a properly-tuned Powerharvester receiver. For example, the P2110 design coupled with a 6 dBi receiving antenna receives power from up to 40 feet (12 meters) away from Powercast’s TX91501 3-watt RF transmitter.

As a predictable energy source, RF energy can provide automated charging, power-over-distance, one-to-many charging, and controllable wireless power (continuous, scheduled or on-demand) for zero-maintenance devices while eliminating charging cords and the need to replace batteries. Because Powercast’s energy-harvesting receiver can also be powered by existing UHF RFID readers, it can be used for stand-alone wireless charging applications, recharging battery-assisted passive RFID tags, or powering passive wireless sensor tags.

In some cases there is sufficient ambient power available from mobile phones, Wi-Fi routers, and mobile networks to operate low-power devices. With advances in lower-power electronics, and the emergence of 1-V-or-less MCUs, full ambient RF harvesting from mobile networks could eventually be ubiquitous. Powercast has demonstrated its P2110 Powerharvester harvesting ambient power from a nearby mobile phone and powering a battery-less, wireless sensor, as well as recharging devices such as a wireless mouse, keyboard, and game controller.

The reference design’s bill of material (BOM) cost, including the Powercast chipset, is estimated to be less than $2 per unit in high volumes. The chipset, part number PCC210, is available through Powercast’s global network of distributors. Customers should contact Powercast directly to discuss terms of the license agreement or custom engineering services. The design of Powercast’s TX91501 transmitter is also available for license.

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