Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Power up without plugging in

Media Release
2nd November 2009

Power up without plugging in

World-leading Auckland researchers have been eliminating the need for wires to supply power for 20 years and their technology could soon underpin a new breakthrough – charging electric vehicles.

During the past year, the research team at Auckland UniServices Ltd, The University of Auckland’s commercialisation company, has been substantially expanded. Led by Professor John Boys and Associate Professor Grant Covic, the team is already seeing its unique technology spreading throughout the world. Additionally, Dr Patrick Hu has been leading research for lower power applications which has led to two companies being spun out of the university.

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology is currently supporting research projects around inductive power transfer (IPT) technology in novel applications, and the Foundation’s business arm, Technology New Zealand, has invested in several of the eight New Zealand companies that are licensed to adapt the technology for wide-ranging applications.

“This is a model of how Foundation support at different points can help turn a great idea into a commercial reality, with initial research principles being proven and leading to commercial applications, and then some lateral thinking resulting in further, new developments,” says the Foundation’s Senior Investment Manager for Manufacturing and ICT Craig Holmes.

IPT uses magnetic fields to transfer power without the need for cables, enabling power to be transmitted across an air gap. It is already powering monorails, industrial systems in vehicle manufacturing plants of BMW, Audi, Mercedes and several Japanese makers and is used in factories producing many of the world’s most popular electronic gadgets where environments, known as clean rooms, depend on being free of contaminants, including dust and bacteria. This is the same technology that is used to charge your electric tooth brush.

“Its greatest advantages are immunity to dust, dirt, water, ice and chemicals, reduced cabling and cable breakage risks, low maintenance, quiet, and multi functional capability, such as power and data transfer. The technology makes broken and exposed wires a thing of the past,” says UniServices Commercialisation Manager, Stephen Flint.

The technology has also been transformed by SmartStud, a unit of Auckland company 3i Innovation, into illuminated road markers. Communication and control features enable the studs to flash in sequence, change colour to automatically open or close motorway lanes, gauge road conditions and traffic flows and report failed studs. The studs are being installed in Europe, Asia and the United States for tunnels, bridges, roads, walkways and pedestrian crossings.

Another Auckland company, PowerbyProxi, is licensed to develop the unplugged power technology and its first export product is a slip ring, which distributes power around rotating joints in industrial equipment without the need for cables. Telemetry Research, a spin out from The University of Auckland, is developing medical devices, such as heart pumps and blood flow monitors that no longer require wires to recharge batteries in the body.

“We see a strong market demand for implantable health devices that are less intrusive than existing systems. It’s good science involving established research teams chasing market opportunities,” says Mr Holmes.

UniServices holds a range of international patents around IPT technology and partners with several large multi-national companies which license and develop the technologies in conjunction with UniServices and The University of Auckland. Japanese company, Diafuku, which has US$3 billion sales annually and employs more than 5,600 people in 19 countries, uses IPT technology in materials handling systems for vehicle manufacturing plants, factory automation and clean rooms, areas in which they are market leaders. Another global partner, Wampfler, a German company and the world’s leading supplier of mobile energy supply and data transmission systems, also uses the technology in automated systems for vehicle manufacturing plants in Europe and North America.

“It’s a success story for New Zealand researchers, with licenses to large companies around the world who are using this technology to manufacture products we use every day and take for granted,” says Mr Flint.

“The continuing IPT development relies on licensing income, development contracts and the Foundation investment which enables the purchase of costly equipment and research opportunities for numerous graduate students and academic staff,” says Mr Flint.

“The government funding is essential, he says, to help keep UniServices ahead of the competition and to continually improve and adapt the technology for new applications.

About the Foundation: The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology invests over $530 million a year on behalf of the New Zealand Government in research and development to enhance the wealth and well being of New Zealanders. TechNZ is the Foundation’s business investment programme. It puts $50 million a year into research and development by New Zealand companies, targeting key sectors of the economy with strong growth potential including specialised manufacturing, information technology, biotechnology and food and beverages.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


NZTA: Major New Zealand Upgrade Programme Projects Go To Tender

Two major New Zealand Upgrade Programme projects are beginning tenders for construction. The New Zealand Upgrade Programme is a $6.8 billion investment to get our cities moving, to save lives and boost productivity in growth areas. The first Auckland ... More>>

Reserve Bank: RBNZ Seeks To Preserve Benefits Of Cash

The Reserve Bank – Te Pūtea Matua is taking on a new role of steward of the cash system “to preserve the benefits of cash for all who need them”, Assistant Governor Christian Hawkesby told the Royal Numismatics Society of New Zealand annual conference ... More>>


Economy: Double-Dip Recession Next Year, But Housing Rolls On

New Zealand's economy is expected to slip back into recession early next year as delayed job losses, falling consumer spending, and the absence of international tourists bites into growth. More>>


Microsoft New Zealand: Microsoft Expands “Highway To A Hundred Unicorns” Initiative To Support Startups In Asia Pacific

New Zealand, 14 October 2020 – Today Microsoft for Startups launches the Highway to a Hundred Unicorns initiative in Asia Pacific to strengthen the region’s startup ecosystem. This follows the initiative’s success in India, where 56 startups were ... More>>

Fonterra: Farmers Taking Another Step Towards New Zealand’s Low Emissions Food Production

They’re hot off the press and intended to help take the heat out of climate change. Fonterra farmers are already among the world’s most sustainable producers of milk and now have an additional tool in their sustainability toolbox. Over the last few ... More>>


Electricity: New Zealand Remains In Top 10 For Energy Balance

The World Energy Council’s Energy Trilemma Index has become part of the energy dialogue both globally and in New Zealand. The Index illustrates the need for countries to balance energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability. New Zealand ... More>>


Courts: Businessman Eric Watson Sentenced To A Four-Month Jail Term

New Zealand businessman Eric Watson has been sentenced to a four-month jail term in the UK for contempt of court, TVNZ reports. More>>

OECD: Area Employment Rate Falls By 4.0 Percentage Points, To 64.6% In Second Quarter Of 2020

The OECD area employment rate – the share of the working-age population with jobs – fell by 4.0 percentage points, to 64.6%, in the second quarter of 2020, its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2010. Across the OECD area, 560 million persons ... More>>

Spark: Turns On 5G In Auckland And Offers A Glimpse Into The Future Of Smart Cities

Spark turned on 5G in downtown Auckland today and has partnered with Auckland Transport (AT) to showcase some of the latest in IoT (Internet of Things) technology and demonstrate what the future could look like for Auckland’s CBD with the power of 5G. 5G is ... More>>

Stats NZ: Monthly Migration Remains Low

Since the border closed in late-March 2020, net migration has averaged about 300 a month, Stats NZ said today. In the five months from April to August 2020, overall net migration was provisionally estimated at 1,700. This was made up of a net gain ... More>>

University of Canterbury: Proglacial Lakes Are Accelerating Glacier Ice Loss

Lake Tasman, New Zealand | 2016 | Photo: Dr Jenna Sutherland Meltwater lakes that form at glacier margins cause ice to recede much further and faster compared to glaciers that terminate on land, according to a new study. But the effects of these glacial ... More>>


Dairy: Fonterra Sells China Farms

Fonterra has agreed to sell its China farms for a total of $555 million (RMB 2.5 billion*1), after successfully developing the farms alongside local partners. Inner Mongolia Natural Dairy Co., Ltd, a subsidiary of China Youran Dairy Group Limited ... More>>