Wireless power startup preps smartphone entry

October 12, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
NuVolta Technologies Inc. (Milpitas, CA), a wireless power chip company startup that already has a number of successful chip designs under its belt, is now working with smartphone companies for the launch of custom chips in 2017.

NuVolta was founded in 2014 by a team of six engineers, of which many came from Texas Instruments. The company's chairman and CTO is Hengchun Mao, previously a power designer at Lucent Bell Labs and manager of Huawei's power architecture and power platform development. The company’s CEO is Michael Wang, previously a product line manager with Texas Instruments.

The company's main thrust is into the 6.78MHz frequency charging for resonant inductive transfer that is being standardized by the AirFuel Alliance. NuVolta has also produced power transfer chip sets compliant with the WPC (Wireless Power Consortium) v1.2 standard. In both areas its route to market is to produce power management ICs that can connect directly to the coil for transmission and reception.

The company raised $7 million in a first venture capital round in 2014 from Legend Capital and UMC Capital. These are the investment arms of Lenovo and UMC respectively. "We founded the company because we see wireless power as a huge market opportunity, particularly with the advent of IoT and electric vehicle charging," Michael Wang, told EE Times Europe.

The company's latest introduction is the NU1000 an integrated transmitter power management IC, incorporating a proprietary magnetic resonance architecture at 6.78MHz. With a small opening on the metal cases, NuVolta’s solutions can transfer fast-charging compatible power with small receiver and transmitter coils at high transfer efficiency. In a typical application with a 25mm transmitter coil and a 25mm receiver coil, more than 10W can be transferred at about 70 percent efficiency through an aluminum plate with an opening as small as 15mm, the company claims

NU1000 is a power management IC integrating all key functional blocks to implement proprietary controlled magnetic resonance architecture in a power transmitter, including power MOSFETs, gate drivers, current sensing, and I2C interface. It is in 5mmx5mm or 6mmx6mm QFN packages, and can support an input voltage between 4.5V to 28V. This IC can be used for a wide range of applications, ranging from wearable devices with a fraction of a watt to smart phones and laptop computers with tens of watts.

"Fast charging through metal cases has been a big challenge for the wireless power industry. NuVolta's team has developed novel technologies to reduce power loss in systems with metal plates, and maintain good magnetic coupling between RX and TX coils, thus enabling efficient wireless charging through metal cases," Hengchun Mao, co-founder and CTO, said in a statement at the time of the product's launch.