Wireless Charging Principles & Technology

How Wireless Charging Works

At a basic level, wireless charging works by creating a wireless transfer of energy between two coils, tuned to resonate at the same frequency.

Based on the principles of electromagnetic resonance, resonant-based chargers inject an oscillating current into a coil to create an oscillating electromagnetic field. A second coil with the same resonant frequency receives power from the electromagnetic field and converts it back into an electrical current that can be used to power and charge devices.

Applications and use cases

The benefits of Wireless Power


What’s the difference between Resonant, RF and Inductive technology?

Both Inductive and Resonant technologies use coils of wire to transfer power while RF uses radio frequency. There are also differences in the transmission frequencies and communication protocols, which translate into variations in spatial freedom to support multiple use cases.  For example, Resonant coils are tuned for better efficiency and enable spatial freedom while Inductive requires the device to be attached to the charge.

Resonant charging utilizes uniquely designed coils to allow movement over longer distances while charging. With resonant charging, any enabled surface can power a device, up to 50mm height and from a wide surface area. 

Resonant-based chargers inject an oscillating current into a highly resonant coil to create an electromagnetic field. A second coil with the same resonant frequency receives power from the electromagnetic field and converts it back into an electrical current that can be used to power and charge devices.

This lets you transfer power over longer distances and does not require exact orientation. Learn more about AirFuel Resonant technology. 

RF charging uses a radio frequency transmitter and a receiver embedded within the device (not a coil) to pick up RF energy and convert it to power. RF provides low power at distances ranging from a few centimeters to a meter, delivering true spatial freedom. This means it works well with wearables, medical devices or other devices that need the broadest spatial freedom. Learn more about AirFuel RF technology.

Inductive charging uses closely coupled coils to deliver transfer of a magnetic field over a short distance (up to 20mm). It works well for devices that can be placed directly on top of the charging source (i.e., with no spatial freedom) such as a smartphones on top of a charging pad.

What about Inductive technology – I thought AirFuel supported Inductive?

AirFuel has worked with all three major wireless charging technologies since our creation in 2015 (based on the merger of PMA and A4WP). But, we’ve seen clear market indicators that Resonant & RF deliver the mobile charging experiences consumers prefer most. We’ve also seen that Resonant provides the best solution to enable widespread public infrastructure deployment.

Having widespread infrastructure to support devices is critical to creating major market penetration. AirFuel Resonant has the benefit of being easy to install while Inductive solutions are costly and difficult to install (this is a key reason Inductive has failed to scale). With Resonant, we are already seeing deployments of public and private infrastructure – particularly in Asia – with lots more to come.

We’ve been hearing about wireless charging for several years now – why is it taking so long?

As with any new or disruptive technology, it takes years to develop a vibrant market. Wireless charging is at an exciting inflection point as we move from early stage, proprietary solutions to standards-based solutions. We have more and more standards-based devices and infrastructure coming to market which helps drive the growth of the market.

Is there still an AirFuel standard for Inductive? Will you support companies already using the AirFuel Inductive standards?

Yes – but AirFuel has discontinued specification work on Inductive technology. Our organization’s focus is on next-generation solutions, which include Resonant and RF technologies.

Do you have additional questions? Get in touch with us


Safety and Regulatory

The safety of wireless charging is one of the most important aspects when using this technology, and product designers should plan for regulatory compliance as a core part of their entire product development process. Learn more about the safety of wireless charging for people and for objects on our Safety and Regulatory page.

Is Wireless Power Safe?

In this technical deep dive by AirFuel Alliance members, we directly address myths about wireless power and answer questions related to the safety of wireless power systems and radio frequency exposure, such as the frequently asked question, “Is wireless power safe?”

Step by Step: Preparing Your Product For EMF Safety

In this webinar, Ky Sealy, Chair of the Magnetic Resonance Working Committee at AirFuel Alliance, walks through a resonant system, EMF safety modeling, simulation, measurement, and how EMF safety is considered for regulatory approval.

How to Keep Wireless Power Transfer Safe

In this webinar, Dr. Eric van Rongen, chairman of ICNIRP, presents new guidelines for exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, their relevance to wireless power, and answers questions on wireless power safety.