Stemming from the aspirations of the famous nineteenth-century physicist and engineer, Nikola Tesla, the notion behind wireless power has been around for decades. The idea has been vaguely implemented into commercial and military use but has yet to reach the mass-consumer market. There’s no doubt that the world is going wireless with the recent popular expansion of cellphones and Wi-Fi internet but the last remaining obstacle to remove all wiring is power. The day we eliminate these wires is soon at hand and could provide an inordinate amount of benefits to both businesses and consumers. Currently, the most common method of transmitting electricity through the air, now dubbed “WiTricity”, uses a main copper coil amplified by electricity, creating a magnetic field. [http://www.witricity.com/pages/application.html].
This method was comparable to the method used at Nikola Tesla’s 18 story-tall Wardenclyffe Tower in New York in 1901 [“Tesla Cosmic Ray Motor May Transmit Power ‘Round’ Earth,” Brooklyn Eagle, July 10, 1932]. This current can be induced into one of several secondary receiving coils. There was one concern, however, that rendered the theory useless – Omni-directional fields. Their problem meant there would be an insufficient amount of power being outputted by the primary coil directed at one central location. In November 2006, researchers at MIT, led by Prof. Marin Soljačić, discovered an effective way to transfer the electricity over a larger distance using a derivation of an old technology called resonance or resonant inductive coupling [Wilson, Tracy V, “How Wireless Power Works”, January 12, 2007].
Usually found in electrical engineering, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others. Their solution meant creating the coil rings and their respective magnetic field to have oscillating amperage, ultimately generating a higher energy output. In lament’s terms, it can be compared to a trumpet’s shape and size being used to amplify sound. Other methods of transferring power wirelessly could include lasers or masers (microwaves) but they, however, are very inefficient as you need a visual line of sight. The commercial and governmental uses, including space exploration and the military, could be endless.
The military could introduce new weapons and vehicles capable of a better developed remote operation and reduced allied casualties. Space exploration would also benefit from this as there would be no need for solar energy or tethered wiring
[http://www.witricity.com/pages/application.html]. Industry and manufacturing could use this to eliminate connections on joints of robots, wireless machine tools or drilling and mining in hard to reach places like underwater [http://www.witricity.com/pages/application.html].
In terms of consumer products, untethered lighting, audio speakers and digital picture frames are to be the first commercial products released [Smith, David, “’Wireless Power’ spells end for cables”, The Observer, January, 4 2009]. The technology can presently be found already in Duracell recharge pads and electric toothbrush charging stations. Very much like Wi-Fi, wireless power could have multiple receiving coils in your lamps, cellphone or even car. Imagine pulling into your garage and having your electric vehicle’s charge automatically top up. It is possible to create this network of power-beaming stations anywhere; you could even have your car charge at stop lights [David Schatz, Mitsubishi Motors, http://goo.gl/3MbS6, September 27, 2011].
WiTricity demonstrated this technology at CES by wirelessly powering a 32-inch television at a distance of six feet. The most difficult part of mass producing this technology would be whether or not people would accept it in their homes given the concerns over the effects of power lines and cellphones. These health concerns should be approached under the consideration that the stations emit a substantially minute amount of ionizing/non-ionizing radiation. While there are no studies displaying acute or chronic effects from WiTricity, it theoretically works congruently to the radiation emitted from a microwave; using it will not hurt you but if you live beside it cooking hot pockets all day, you will receive chronic side effects. Companies will not do anything drastic until these deleterious effects are verified and legislation is put into effect.
Providing people become aware of how this technology works and accept the fact that it emits very diminutive radiation, you will definitely see this transform into a new trend over the coming years. Thus far, WiTricity has been extremely quiet about its plans and products, but the company’s website says that it’s currently working to miniaturize the technology so that it can be embedded directly into devices and systems. This will eliminate the need for the external capture device. It’s taken nearly a century to develop but by the end of 2013, we should have our first wirelessly charged smartphones [George Jones, MaximumPC, September 14, 2010, http://goo.gl/YCczN].
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