In an effort to bring a new NFC-based application into the spotlight, Panthronics has announced its single-chip solution for Near-Field Communication (NFC) wireless charging: the PTX30W. The new device is the “only integrated, single-chip solution” for an NFC listener, making it extremely valuable for the future of NFC wireless charging.
The Panthronics PTX30W offers NFC wireless charging designers an all-in-one solution for an NFC listener. Image used courtesy of Panthronics
While NFC is certainly not a new or obscure technology, NFC wireless charging may not be as familiar to most designers. Wireless charging has existed for years but has typically relied on bulky antennas to efficiently transfer power over short distances, making it impractical for small electronic devices such as smartwatches or wireless earphones.
In this article, we’ll provide some necessary background on NFC wireless charging to help you understand the use cases and limitations of the technology. We’ll also analyze Panthronics’ new chip and explain its role in an NFC wireless charging ecosystem.
Wireless Charging With NFC
In today’s world, NFC has a bevy of day-to-day use cases from payment, secure access, or general data transfer. NFC systems typically include a “poller,” that initiates the data transfer, and a “listener,” who remains inactive until it receives a request from the poller.
NFC wireless charging follows this same scheme, whereas the poller would be the charging station and the listener would be the device receiving energy during the charging process. More information is available in the PTX30W product brief.
The power vs antenna footprint graph highlights the strengths of NFC wireless charging. While it may only supply a fraction of the power compared to Qi, it is able to do so with a much smaller footprint. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics
Typically, to provide the power required for many devices, a large antenna is required to efficiently transfer a large amount of energy. Thankfully, smaller devices such as wireless earphones typically consume much less power and contain smaller batteries than their larger counterparts. That means they can be charged in a similar time with less energy, making the reduced power of NFC charging an acceptable tradeoff.
By providing up to 1 W of power with a much smaller antenna, NFC wireless charging may offer an improved wireless charging solution for small, highly integrated devices.
One-stop Shop for NFC Listeners
Recognizing that the primary application for NFC wireless charging is small devices, Panthronics set out to make their chip as small as possible to aid with integration. The PTX30W package is only 1.78 mm × 1.78 mm (3.2 mm2) and includes all the necessary hardware on-chip to make an NFC listener. It even includes the power negotiation protocol on-chip, removing the need for an external microcontroller. More information can be found in the PTX30W fact sheet.
The NFC charging block diagram illustrates the usefulness of the PTX30W, allowing for easy NFC wireless charging integration in a single package. Image used courtesy of Panthronics
In addition to the wireless charging capabilities, the PTX30W also supports bidirectional data transfer to communicate battery state or fault indicators, as well as provide a pipeline for firmware updates.
Panthronics has also announced an evaluation kit for the PTX30W, giving designers the chance to determine the chip’s effectiveness in their own systems. In addition, both the listener PTX30W and poller PTX130W will be supported by an SDK from Panthronics.
More Freedom in Charging
The product advances in NFC wireless charging come amidst several new wireless charging technologies such as RF wireless charging, each of which is designed to target a different application.
The PTX30W from Panthronics offers a simple, all-in-one solution for NFC wireless charging integration in small devices and helps to tailor a solution specifically for the next generation of smart devices.
While NFC charging is certainly exciting, designers and users shouldn’t expect to integrate it into smartphones anytime soon. The limited power of NFC wireless charging disqualifies it from charging any energy-hungry devices (at least from charging them quickly), while other solutions offer more power when given the additional space.
Despite the potentially limited use cases, NFC wireless charging and the product announcement from Panthronics represent an exciting step forward for small electronics and gives smart devices the new opportunity to become even smaller.
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