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New research aims to charge robots remotely

Researchers in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Leeds are taking part in a project to develop ways to wirelessly “beam” power into robots and other digital systems.

The £1 million SWIFT project involves researchers at Leeds, King’s College London and Lancaster University and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It is the first collaborative UK effort to develop systems that can simultaneously transfer information and power across wireless networks.

Wireless power transfer dates back to Nikola Tesla, who experimentally demonstrated wireless energy transfer (WET) in the late 19th century, and short-range wireless charging of mobile phones and other gadgets is about to become standard.

However, the new project will focus on the possibility of longer-range wireless charging, exploiting recent advances in electronically-steered antennas that make it feasible to power robots safely over a significant distance using a microwave beam.

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The project aims to build working prototypes of wirelessly powered robots, which will be fabricated in the new EPSRC National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems.

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