PowerLight and Ericsson Introduce Laser Beam System for 5G


An artist’s design illustrates how laser radiation stations can wirelessly transmit power to a network of 5G base stations and drones. (Ericsson / PowerLight Illustration)

The power of wireless transmission using laser beams has been science fiction for decades, but Wash-based Kent. PowerLight Technologies and Ericsson, the multinational telecommunications company based in Sweden, has shown how this can become a reality for 5G wireless service.

Integrating PowerLight’s beam power system into Ericsson’s 5G equipment may take a few years, but the proof of concept could help usher in an era where wireless power is as widely accepted as wireless communication. thread is today.

“The idea that Ericsson is promoting is that we now have wireless connectivity,” PowerLight CEO Richard Gustafson told GeekWire. “It’s time to cut the last cord – and that’s the power cord.”

Gustafson said PowerLight takes a “crawl, walk, run” approach to wireless power.

“It’s not about moving from our proof of concept to an urban environment, but about starting to work on packaging for an environment such as disaster response or emergency response, where you need to. get the equipment up and running quickly, ”he said. .

Ericsson’s demonstration took place in and around PowerLight’s facilities in Kent at the end of July.

“This proof of concept was defined by a set of power and distance parameters, using Ericsson hardware,” Gustafson explained. “In this case, it was a 5G radio base station that required a minimum of 200 watts of power.”

Ericsson engineers installed the Ericsson Streetmacro 6701 Base Station and PowerLight’s laser light receiving station on a 22-foot-high pole in a parking lot, approximately 400 feet from the company’s workshop and garage. The PowerLight system converted electrical energy into infrared laser light for transmission to the receiver, which reconverted laser energy into electrical energy with high efficiency.

“We passed electricity from our garage through the parking lot to our receiver, then powered a battery that powered the base station,” Gustafson said. “And so it was verified that there were no cables anywhere and that the power was absolutely supplied wireless.”

The demonstration also put PowerLight’s security system to the test. When an obstacle was placed inside the “safety ring” extending from the PowerLight laser transmitter to the receiver, the laser shut down within milliseconds. The system batteries kept the 5G transmission system powered on until the obstruction was cleared and the laser beam restarted.

“Without security, you have no app,” Gustafson said.

Watch Ericsson’s video showcasing the power of its 5G base station

This summer’s one-day test built on previous demonstrations for Department of Defense customers, who approved of the harness system’s performance as well as its safety.

PowerLight just signed a nearly $ 10 million contract with the Naval Research Laboratory. Now the company is preparing to work on a $ 10 million contract vehicle that would involve Pentagon funding as well as commercial work.

And that’s not all: “We are considering a private tour de table, the amount and timing of which are yet to be determined – but in broad strokes, we could imagine a [million] to $ 10 million at some point in 2022, ”said Gustafson. New funding is likely to boost Kent-based PowerLight’s workforce and contractors well beyond its current level of around two dozen.

Ericsson reports that PowerLight’s support for its Radio access network the material is just the start of what could be a great friendship. “PowerLight and Ericsson are both focused on innovation,” Kevin Zvokel, Ericsson’s North American Network Manager, said in a press release. “This is an important first step towards building future uses that will redefine the ‘possible’. Imagine using a laser optical beam to support machines without a power cord such as automated guided vehicles and drones, as well as devices such as IoT sensors and lights.

PowerLight, which was known as LaserMotive until the company rebranded itself in 2017, has been working on the power beam challenge for over a decade. His first big success involved win a $ 900,000 prize at the NASA-funded Space Elevator Games, in 2009. Since then, the company has expanded its portfolio to include fiber optic and marine applications and power distribution on the moon.

Several other Seattle-area startups, such as WiBotic, Jeeva, and Ossia, are focusing on wireless power systems for ultra-low power drones, phones, robots, and mobile devices. Researchers at the University of Washington and Bellevue, Wash., Studied power beam systems for free-flight drones. But Claes Olsson, executive chairman of PowerLight, said his company’s system targets a larger market that poses greater challenges.

Ultimately, PowerLight aims to send kilowatts of power through the air over a distance of one kilometer (0.6 miles) or more – and the demonstration conducted for Ericsson suggests the company is on track to achieve that goal.

“Most people know that wireless charging technology is available today for small electronic devices, such as cell phones and watches,” Olsson said. “This demonstration, which used the best innovative technology from PowerLight and Ericsson, highlights the major advances we have recently made towards commercializing secure wireless power transmission for systems on a larger scale.

Olsson said PowerLight has a list of more than 140 potential use cases to choose from, but chose 5G as a starting point.

“As a startup you have to focus, focus, focus,” he told GeekWire. “That’s what we’re focused on, and we couldn’t find a better partner than Ericsson.”

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