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Soon after iPhone 6 was introduced there was a prank claiming that the smartphone can be charged by leaving it in a running domestic microwave.

TL;DR don't do it, it is very, very unsafe. There's a number of videos showing how a lot of things goes wrong, don't do it anywhere.

So a portable device such as smartphone as it's shipped cannot be charged by a domestic microwave.

Could it be redesigned so that such charging becomes possible? I've read a number of publications about distant future concepts where you have a number of large solar panels on Earth orbit and they capture energy and then beam it to Earth surface as microwave radiation where the beam hits some cleverly designed receiver and the latter converts microwaves to electricity. Perhaps something like this can be done for charging devices.

Suppose the following limitations apply:

  • it must support typical domestic microwave ovens, no adjustments of oven must be required
  • the portable device may contain any new or altered elements unless those significantly impair its usability or make it unsafe

Is it doable?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Jan 24 '17 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ ping? Is there something wrong with my answer or have you just forgotten to accept it? \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Mar 8 '17 at 19:59
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Sure. Place a \$\frac\lambda2\$ dipole in your microwave oven and see how the kV's spark over the feed point. You could of course harvest that power. It's an EM field – what did you expect?

So, the proof of concept being trivial, making a device that makes this safe and reliable to use is pretty much impossible – the microwave oven is designed to produce a standing wave (admittedly, that they typically try to change in shape with mechanical mode mixers) inside the oven cavity – you could as well hit one of the zeros in that standing wave and not receive much energy at all.

Another problem is that what works with your intentional dipole works with the traces and metal parts of your mobile device, too. And since the wavelength of a microwave is in the same orders of magnitude as your average phone's dimensions, that is bad news. You'd have to essentially shield your phone from those in order to not fry it. And do that to a high degree of isolation, with a high degree of uncertainty in the frequency you block – microwave oven cyclotrons are truly not designed for highest frequency stability or accuracy. Sadly, shielding the device from microwave radiation strongly clashes with the purpose of your phone. You'll notice that e.g. WiFi in the 2.4 GHz band shares the frequencies with microwave oven. If you shield your phone against oven wavelengths, you'll shield it against WiFi, too. Your customers will be thrilled to have such a nice rechargeable useless thing.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Just tell them they are holding it wrong? \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Jan 24 '17 at 15:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PlasmaHH you, sir, are king among those who employ dry humor. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Jan 24 '17 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not to mention that wifi and microwaves are pretty much in the same band, so your wifi antenna will likely fry at least the wifi chipset—unless special care is taken. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonas Schäfer Jan 24 '17 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonasWielicki not to mention: Well, I did mention that. It was my point. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Jan 24 '17 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarcusMüller I have no idea how I overlooked that. Sorry for the noise. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonas Schäfer Jan 24 '17 at 16:12

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