A new source of energy is about to burst onto the scene: solid-state RF energy. Industrial ovens and plasma lamps are going to start using it first, but other products will follow, pinkRF director Klaus Werner predicts. His company is forging a bridge to the new applications.
When Klaus Werner was working as a business development manager at NXP’s RF Power Division – the current Ampleon – he noticed that more and more new customers were from unexpected fields. “EF power amplifiers are used in base stations of transmitter towers or in radar systems, for transmission and boosting of signals. However, those new customers were interested in a quite different property of high-frequency radio waves: they contain energy. Would it be possible to use that energy to power lighting or to heat food?”
The answer was yes and Werner realized the huge potential of so-called solid-state RF energy, where solid-state refers to the semiconductor components that generate the radio frequency waves.
He is now putting his belief in practice with his own company pinkRF, which he founded together with colleague Mark Murphy in 2015. They help new users of RF energy find their way in what is unknown territory for them. “We bridge the gap between the world of transistors and that of customer applications.”
Werner is not the only one to have high expectations when it comes to solid-state RF energy. He took the initiative to set up the RF Energy Alliance, which brings together component manufacturers and users. White good manufacturers such as Whirlpool, Miele and Panasonic are also represented in the Alliance. That is no coincidence, as one of the applications about to be launched is the solid-state microwave. “The existing devices still use old-fashioned vacuum tube technology. These tubes produce the microwaves but they are difficult to regulate and distribute heat unevenly, which is why there is the rotating glass plate,” Werner explains. “Solid-state energy can be regulated perfectly. The energy can be released far more homogeneously and even pulsatingly. On top of this there is hardly any wear and tear with this technology.”
The first prototypes for professional ovens will probably appear on the market in 2017. These will initially be for high-end users, such as restaurants and canteens. Werner expects that the new solid-state cookers will be available in the shops in two years from now.
Solid-state RF is also about to be introduced in the lighting industry. ” powered by this energy source give off a very beautiful, and really bright, white light.” The lights are robust because they are mechanically simple and no longer contain electrodes that can be easily damaged. “These lights have a life of up to 50,000 hours.” Once again it is the professional market that will be served first. “Think of shop or street lights, or at a later stage car and greenhouse lights. After that there will be a gradual development towards consumer electronics.”
One special application is in the field of healthcare and is known as hyperthermia. The radio waves are used to heat cancer cells and kill them.” Werner and his partner visited a specialized cancer clinic where hyperthermia is already being used. They were so impressed by what the technology can do for cancer patients that they incorporated this experience into the company name. “Breast cancer is one of the types of cancer treated with hyperthermia. And because Pink Ribbon, as an organization, dedicates itself to breast cancer patients, we have included this optimistic color ‘pink’ in our name.”
“Although building a better microwave is a nice challenge, nothing beats working on a technology that contributes to people’s well-being. This application touches and inspires us.”