Tiny RF Energy Harvesting Chip Wirelessly Charges Smart Cards

wireless charging

Wireless charging technology has been around for many years and is now showing up in everything from smartphones and cars to robots and internet of things (IoT) devices. The technology may sound fascinating but it isn’t perfect yet. Designers are constantly looking for new semiconductor solutions that overcome the latest wireless power transfer challenges — fast charging speed, smaller footprint for tiny devices like wearables, smart heat management, etc.

Powercast Corporation is one of the technology firms working on the next generation of wireless charging technology. The company’s long-range, power-over-distance wireless charging technology uses broadcasted RF energy (radio waves) converted into DC power to charge devices. The company offers FCC-approved transmitters and receiver chips to enable automatic, over-the-air charging of multiple devices – no charging mats or direct line of sight needed.

0.3mm Wireless power receiver charges Ultra-compact devices 

Powercast recently launched a new wireless power receiver and RF-to-DC converter chip (PCC114) to facilitate the design of ultra-compact, wirelessly-powered devices. The new chip’s footprint (1mm x 0.6mm x 0.3mm) is seven times smaller than the existing PCC110 (2mm x 2.1mm x 0.9mm) and has 20 times less volume. This makes it ideal for embedding in space-constrained consumer designs like smart cards or hearing aids.

How Powercast’s remote wireless charging technology works


A Powerharvester receiver (PCC114 or PCC110) embedded in a device harvests the RF energy sent over the air from either an “intentional” or “anticipated” RF source, then converts it to DC to directly power a batteryless device or recharge a device’s batteries.

An intentional RF source is an RF transmitter in the home, office, public place or industrial setting, like Powercast’s new FCC-approved PowerSpot far field (up to 80 feet) transmitter. Anticipated RF sources, such as UHF (ultra-high frequency) RFID inventory readers or NFC (near field communications) POS readers, could charge devices at the interaction point.

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Wirelessly-powered smart cards are smarter, more feature-rich:

Wireless power harvesting enables smart cards that can be recharged while in use, so they offer power-hungry features without running out of juice. Examples include advanced security components like a fingerprint sensor, ePaper displays that retain data like balances Wor one-time PINs even when outside the power field, and hotel door access cards, loyalty/gift cards, or subway passes that become reusable/reloadable.

New Energy harvesting chip specifics:

Operating across a wide RF power (-17 to +20dBm) and frequency (10MHz to 6GHz) range, the new Powerharvester PCC114 converts RF to DC with up to 75 percent efficiency, harvests from all modulation types, works with standard 50-ohm antennas and is RoHS compliant.

The company expects consumer designs using this new chip to be shipping in 12 to 18 months.

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