Is Wireless Charging Bad for You?

Phone and its wireless charging pad.

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There is a timeless age-old tradition of getting scared of new and emerging technologies. Everything from the invention of electricity to 5G has sparred global protests. And every time such global lash backs against a new technology happens, it has something to do with electromagnetic waves. Clearly, most people don’t seem to be so understanding about the idea. But there is a need to, for you and your loved one’s safety.

The very first thing one needs to understand is the EM waves themselves. What is an EM wave and how is it generated? Understanding this on the most basic level should level out your confusion.

A charged particle such as an electron or a proton has a space around them called the electric field. Inside the electric field, one will experience its electric force. If this charged particle is moving, then it creates a relative motion with other charged particles of opposite nature. It is this relative change that gives rise to the magnetic field in a moving charged particle. This is explained by Einstein’s special relativity theory.

This electric field and magnetic field together produce the electromagnetic field. Or one can say electric field and magnetic field are components of the electromagnetic field. Any object inside the electromagnetic field experiences an electromagnetic force.

Electromagnetic force along with gravitational force, weak nuclear force & strong nuclear force is one of the 4 fundamental forces of the universe. The electromagnetic force is responsible for holding up electrons and the nucleus together in an atom. Basically, it is responsible for making our entire physical existence possible.

So, what is the Electromagnetic wave?

I am sure everyone is aware of the most basic structure of an atom. It consists of a nucleus at its core consisting of protons and neutrons. Electrons rotate around this nucleus in certain fixed orbits. As I already mentioned above, electrons cannot easily leave the atom (other than the one in outer orbits) because of the electromagnetic force between electrons and the nucleus. However, it does often change orbits.

When an electron changes from a higher orbit to a lower orbit, energy is released. This is because only less energy is needed to keep that electron intact with the nucleus as the distance between them lowers. This released energy is what we perceive as an electromagnetic wave.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The frequency of this EM wave — if within the range seeable by the human eye is what gives the color of the object you’re looking at right now.

Yes, I came up with the entire simplified science write up to come at one point. EM waves are everywhere, the screen that you’re reading right now, the light in your room, Wi-Fi, and Mobile connections are all emitting it constantly.

But you’re not afraid of the light coming out from your screen or the light in your room. Because you can see them. But you’re concerned about your Wi-Fi, your mobile connection, and that wireless charger because you know it is emitting something but you just cannot see it.

So in many ways, the fear of technologies like wireless charging, 5G, Wi-Fi are fear of the unknown. Unfortunately or fortunately for humans, there is only a small range of EM waves that is visible by human beings and it is classified as the visible region.

EM waves from non-visible regions are everywhere even without any human-made technology. That doesn’t mean they’re harmful. EM waves emitted by a wireless charger is no stronger than the one emitted by your radio. The sun itself emits a range of EM waves including those in the harmful range that can cause cancer. But so far, our good old ozone buddy has done a pretty good job fending off all the harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching us.

This brings up the other point of this article. EM waves emitted by a wireless charger is not harmful, but the one emitted by our sun definitely is. You see, a wireless charger does not do much harm of its own. But the efficiency of a wireless charger (estimated 75% between the coils at optimal condition, additional losses during the generation of EM wave, and conversion back to normal electricity in the device circuit) is pretty low. Compared to wired charging, studies vary from 47% to 75% additional energy consumption by wireless charging on the same device. If over 1 billion devices are plugged to charge across the globe every day, and all of them used wireless charging, the amount of accumulated energy loss will be enough to run whole cities. It is as if 100s of millions of new phones suddenly came in to use and go through a regular recharge cycle.

Currently, about 89% of the world’s energy needs are met using non-renewable sources including over 80% of them using fossil fuels. Generation of power using sources that directly contributes to global warming by emitting greenhouse gases and indirectly enhances the effects of ozone depletion is how wireless charging can be bad for you.

The tremendous amount of additional energy that is required to charge billions of new devices with wireless charging will put enormous pressure on the grid forcing more power production using these same sources.

So, wireless charging is an exciting technology. No, it isn’t harmful. But it is, in a way. We should decide whether its destructive side is a good trade for the slight upgrade of convenience.

Oh, and BTW, Apple lied about their commitment to the “environment”.

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