On April 02, 2015, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals new inductive charging interfaces with magnetic retention for electronic devices and accessories. To date, Apple has filed a for a patent regarding "Wireless charging via Near Field Magnetic Resonance," while implementing USB Type-C on their new MacBook for faster charging. Today's patent makes the case that adding wireless charging to thinner iDevices may not be the way to go in the future. In one way, Apple's patent appears to advance MagSafe. The problem however is that the European Commission has given Apple until 2017 to implement a common USB solution for charging mobile devices which USB Type-C delivers. Whether this could be integrated into a future version of USB is unknown at this time.
Apple's Patent Background
The present invention relates generally to inductive charging interfaces, and in particular inductive charging interfaces for mobile devices.
Many electronic devices mate with electrical connectors that provide power. For example, devices, such as tablets, laptops, netbooks, desktops, and all-in-one computers; cell, smart, and media phones; storage devices, portable media players, navigation systems, monitors, and others, can be mated with electrical connectors in order to charge their internal batteries.
Wired charging via electrical connectors (e.g., plug and receptacle connectors) is commonly used but wireless charging, and specifically inductive charging, is becoming increasingly common. However, while inductive charging is sometimes more convenient than wired charging, inductive charging historically has been very inefficient due to high energy losses, e.g., due to leakage flux, non-ideal magnetic paths, etc. These losses result in wasted resources as well as longer charge times as compared with wired charging.
Furthermore, in order to inductively charge electronic devices, large receiving coils are currently implemented within electronic devices. These receiving coils consume a significant amount of scarce space within increasingly compact electronic devices. A corresponding transmission coil is typically located within a charging pad to inductively charge these electronic devices when placed on the pad.
As electronic devices continue to consumer more power, there is an increasing demand for convenient, power-efficient and space-efficient methods of charging these electronic devices.
Apple Invention: Inductive Charging Interface with Magnetic Retention for Electronic Devices and Accessories
Apple's invention generally relates to inductive charging interfaces, and in particular inductive charging interfaces for mobile devices.
Various embodiments of the invention pertain to an interface for high-efficiency inductive charging of electronic devices, including mobile electronic devices. Although some energy losses in inductive charging may be inherent and unavoidable, other losses caused by the misalignment of or large distance between receiving and transmission inductive charging elements can be reduced in embodiments of the present invention.
For example, Apple states that a magnetic core of an inductive charging configuration may be divided into two magnetic elements; one element can be housed within a receptacle or receiving connector of a housing of an electric device and the other element can be housed within a plug or transmission connector. In some embodiments, these two elements can be shaped like U-shaped halves of a toroid. The poles of the two elements of the magnetic core may create a magnetic field to retain the plug connector in an aligned, mated position with the receptacle connector of the electronic device in addition to directing magnetic flux to flow in a circular path around and between the two elements of the magnetic core. Corresponding distal ends of the elements of the magnetic core may be in close proximity in the mated position, separated only by windows--thin pieces of magnetically permeable material. Additional elements corresponding to those of a typical transformer or inductive charger can also be included in this inductive charging configuration.
Instead of relying on the plug and receptacle connector of the present invention to provide data to electronic devices, wireless means such as Wi-Fi, other wireless protocols, and antenna coupling can be used to allow the electronic devices of the present invention to receive and send data. As such, accidental breakage that is common with conventional electrical connectors can be avoided via the breaking of magnetic retention instead of structural elements such as retention features or a connector housing.
Furthermore, as will be discussed in further detail below, the present invention may even allow for faster charging times due the higher charging efficiencies provided for in embodiments of the present invention.
According to one embodiment, a plug connector supporting inductive charging is provided. The plug connector can include a magnetic element having poles aligned to generate a magnetic field that attracts a corresponding receptacle connector of an electronic device and orients and aligns the plug connecter therewith, a wire wound around the magnetic element to form an inductive transmission coil, an electrical connection coupled to the inductive transmission coil and configured to apply a current to the inductive transmission coil to induce a current in an inductive receiving coil of the corresponding receptacle connector and a magnetically permeable window adjacent to the magnetic element. The magnetically permeable window can form a portion of an exterior surface of the plug connector. The magnetically permeable window also can be configured to allow magnetic flux to flow to and from the corresponding receptacle connector when the corresponding receptacle connector is mated with the plug connector.
According to another embodiment, an electronic device that supports inductive charging is provided. The electronic device can include a receptacle connector having a mating surface configured to mate with a corresponding plug connector. The receptacle connector can include a magnetic element having poles positioned to generate a magnetic field that attracts a corresponding plug connector and orients and aligns the corresponding plug connector with the receptacle connector, and a wire wound around the magnetic element to form an inductive receiving coil. The mating surface can be located adjacent to the magnetic element, form a portion of an exterior surface of the electronic device and be configured to allow magnetic flux to flow to and from the corresponding plug connector when the corresponding plug connector is mated with the receptacle connector. The electronic device can also include a battery within the electronic device and a charging circuit within the electronic device. The charging circuit can be configured to use an induced current received from the inductive receiving coil to charge the battery.
According to yet another embodiment, a plug connector supporting inductive charging is provided. The plug connector can include a housing having a mating end configured to mate with a corresponding receptacle connector. The housing can include a magnetic element having poles aligned to generate a magnetic field that attracts a corresponding receptacle connector of an electronic device and orients and aligns the plug connecter therewith, a wire wound around the magnetic element to form an inductive transmission coil and an electrical connection coupled to the inductive transmission coil and configured to apply a current to the inductive transmission coil to induce a current in a inductive receiving coil of the corresponding connector. The mating end can be further configured to allow magnetic flux to flow to and from the corresponding receptacle connector when the corresponding receptacle connector is mated with the plug connector. The plug connector can also include a cable coupled to the housing.
Although aspects of the invention are described in relation to plug and receptacle connectors for mobile devices and mobile device accessories, it is appreciated that these aspects and methods can be use
Apple's patent FIGS. 5A and 5B noted below illustrate a Multi-Loop Inductive Charging Interface.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 noted below illustrates a Magnetically Permeable Window Frame. The device 700 and plug connector 702 includes three magnetically permeable window frames that circumscribe distal tips of magnet elements.
This is obviously a complex invention and for those wishing to dig deeper into the finer points of the invention could review it here.
Apple credits Albert Golko, Eric Jol, Nathan Bosscher and Todd Moyer as the inventors of patent application 20150091388 which was originally filed in Q3 2014 2012. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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