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Wireless power transfer (WPT) or wireless energy transmission is the transmission of electrical energy from a power source to an electrical load, such as an electrical power grid or a consuming device, without the use of discrete man-made conductors. Wireless power is a generic term that refers to a number of different power transmission technologies that use time-varying electric, magnetic, or electromagnetic fields. In wireless power transfer, a wireless transmitter connected to a power source conveys the field energy across an intervening space to one or more receivers, where it is converted back to an electrical current and then used. Wireless transmission is useful to power electrical devices in cases where interconnecting wires are inconvenient, hazardous, or are not possible.
Wireless power techniques fall into two categories, non-radiative and radiative. In non-radiative techniques, power is typically transferred by magnetic fields using inductive coupling between coils of wire. Applications of this type include electric toothbrush chargers, RFID tags, smartcards, and chargers for implantable medical devices like artificial cardiac pacemakers, and inductive powering or charging of electric vehicles like trains or buses. A current focus is to develop wireless systems to charge mobile and handheld computing devices such as cellphones, digital music players and portable computers without being tethered to a wall plug. Power may also be transferred by electric fields using capacitive coupling between metal electrodes. In radiative far-field techniques, also called power beaming, power is transferred by beams of electromagnetic radiation, like microwaves or laser beams. These techniques can transport energy longer distances but must be aimed at the receiver. Proposed applications for this type are solar power satellites, and wireless powered drone aircraft.
Japan and China both have national ambitions to begin on-orbit testing of Solar Power Satellites by the 2030s which may accelerate both technical and regulatory progress.
An important issue associated with all wireless power systems is limiting the exposure of people and other living things to potentially injurious electromagnetic fields (see Electromagnetic radiation and health).