PowerbyProxi is leading a revolution in power supply by making electricity flow through thin air.
The Kiwi start-up, co-founded by Fady Mishriki and Greg Cross, is a global leader in delivering electricity in hostile environments and hard-to-reach locations. The company is doing this by cutting out wires and cables and chucking out parts that get clogged up by water and dirt.
In the 1800s, inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla proved that power could be transferred from one copper coil to another without them touching. Now, PowerbyProxi is helping other companies ‘jump the gap’ with a range of cost-effective products that enable their customers to do things that were not possible using strictly cable-based power.
PowerbyProxi has offices in New Zealand, USA and Japan. It enjoys access to a world-class talent base through its shareholding partnership with the University of Auckland’s Engineering School. The University’s internationally renowned researchers were among the first to develop and commercialise inductive power transfer.
A PowerbyProxi success story is the first wireless wind turbine installed in Spain in 2010. The hydraulic turbine uses the Proxi-Ring™. This has a wireless power transmitter and power receiver that allows electricity to get from a stationary point to a moving point. The cost of maintaining and replacing a mechanical contact slip-ring can be prohibitive. However, the Proxi-Ring, a contactless slip-ring, has been working flawlessly since its installation. Over the next 3 years, the Proxi-Ring™ will be put into another 500 wireless wind turbines in Spain.
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Read more about wind power in New Zealand.
Nature has a spectacular way of forcing volts across a gap… [crash]
But they say lightening doesn’t strike twice so how can electricity flow, reliably, through thin air?
PowerbyProxi’s business is radically changing power systems in industrial machinery. They’re cutting out wires and cables, and chucking out parts that get clogged by water, mud and dirt, with their smart new electrical contact that is….wireless.
Running a current through a wire generates a magnetic filed around that wire. If you place another wire next to that first one, it actually picks up the magnetic field and a current is induced in that second wire.
Their technology controls power induction. Electricity flows through a copper coil, crosses the gap as a carefully tuned electro magnetic frequency and turns back into electric current in more copper wire on the other side.
Despite the fact that Tesla invented the concept way back in the 1800s nobody’s worked out really how to make money out of it.
Fady was a wireless power enthusiast in his final year of an engineering degree at Auckland University when he met PowerbyProxi co-founder Greg Cross. After 6 months brainstorming they came up with a way to commercialize Fady’s ideas.
We unplugged the power cable and we do so in wet dirty and moving hostile industrial environments. We can enable our customers to do things that were not before possible. Create better products that are more reliable, that don’t fail as much and don’t require as much maintenance.
What we’ve got here is a product we call a ProxiRing. On this side I’ve got a power transmitter, on this side I’ve got a power receiver which is connected to a motor and a couple of lights. You’ll see that there are no wires running up to the receiver. There’s a glass block that it sits on over here, so all of the energy that’s running that motor and these lights is being transferred through this gap. Now the key advantage of this is that we can get power from a stationary point, say the nacelle of a wind turbine, to a rotating point, say the hub of a wind turbine, without any frictional components.
Helped by research and development funding from the Ministry of Science and Innovation, PowerbyProxi has installed the world’s first wirelessly powered wind turbine in Spain.
That wind turbine was an old wind turbine, so typically maintenance costs become much higher, and as a wind turbine ages and the components get wear and tear.
Here is how it used to be done. This device here is a mechanical slip ring. It works kind of like a disc brake and pad where the frictional motion actually maintains that electrical contact. Whereas with this wireless ProxiRing it’s completely maintenance free solution.
If you think of the cost of having to climb a wind turbine to replace or maintain components, it’s not something you want to be doing on a regular basis.
The combination of live electricity and water is usually a very bad idea but because this power is transferred by magnetic field there’s little danger.
We’ve commissioned health and safety studies which have proven the safety of this technology. In fact the energy density is much less than that of a cellular phone so it’s better for you.
Another key to their success is their relationship with Auckland University’s engineering department, which leads the world in wireless power research.
They give us huge advantage in terms of our research capability because we literally can hire the best trained graduate wireless power engineers in the world.
Already the 4 year old business is working with 5 of the world’s largest companies, to see their products being used off road, below the surface and even in outer space.
This is part of the Innovation Stories series produced in partnership with the Ministry of Science and Innovation, it featured on TVNZ 7 during the Spotlight on Science + Innovation month in August 2011.