The Wireless Future

MITBack in June, 2007, a team of MIT researchers demonstrated what they call WiTricity (or wireless electricity). The team was able to power a 60-watt incandescent light bulb from a power source seven feet away. How? Magnetically coupled resonance, of course! Okay, physics geekery aside, the basic concept is simple: two objects with the same “resonant frequency” exchange energy with one another through a constant stream of magnetic fields contained in a specific area. The idea is that a copper coil could reside inside a wall, and transmit power to devices within a specific range of that wall. To receive power and juice up, devices would have to be fitted with receiving coils.

For more of the science background on the technology, visit MIT’s press release (it does a far better job of explaining the details than we ever could). What we find even more interesting than the technology itself is how the team behind this technology came to its amazing conclusions. First, a quaint little story on the need for WiTricity:

The story starts one late night a few years ago, with Soljacic (pronounced Soul-ya-cheech) standing in his pajamas, staring at his cell phone on the kitchen counter. “It was probably the sixth time that month that I was awakened by my cell phone beeping to let me know that I had forgotten to charge it. It occurred to me that it would be so great if the thing took care of its own charging.” To make this possible, one would have to have a way to transmit power wirelessly, so Soljacic started thinking about which physical phenomena could help make this wish a reality.

What’s even more interesting is that the laws of magnetic resonance have been around for hundreds of years. The principles on which WiTricity is based are old, and well-known. This begs the question: why did no one think of this before? Simply put, there was no need for WiTricity before. With only a few devices to manage, people didn’t really care about ditching the cord. But now, with iPods, computers, mobile phones, PDAs, and a slew of other personal electronics, the cord problem is a bit more pronounced. Our point? Innovation isn’t always about new technologies or new ideas – it can just as easily be an old idea applied at just right time. Think about it.

For more information, visit MIT’s press release, or  Marin Solijacic’s page on Wireless Power Transfer.

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