Wireless Electricity or Wireless Power or WiFi Electricity and sometimes WiTricity (ideally refers only to the products and proprietary technology of WiTricity Corporation) are different nomenclatures for the same technology. Have you heard about any of them? If yes, then I must say you are living on the edge rather the bleeding-edge of technology!
Innovation is the key differentiator between humans and rest of the living beings. We innovate much faster than any other living being on earth. Every moment in some corner of the world something new is created, something which may sound magical to our ears today. Till 20 years back, even the idea of mobile phone would have instilled a sense of wonder in mere mortals like us.
If we can transmit voice (sound energy) across the continent, why can't we transmit power (electric energy) in a similar fashion? Did something of this sort ever tickle your grey cells?
Like a magic, an innovation is initially hard to believe till it becomes a part of our daily life or till we feel it ourselves. Wireless electricity is one of the latest innovations which may significantly change the way electricity is consumed & may lead to a 'mature death' of disposable battery industry. Looks like a 9/11 for Duracells & Energizers! Cheers to Greenpeace activists.
Imagine Mobile phone, Laptop computer, TV, MP3 player and other electronic devices without any power cord and without any battery! You can power your gizmos without any physical connection. An uncluttered wire free home. Truly amazing! Isn't it?
When it started?
If you haven’t heard of it, you may assume it’s quite new. Right?
Wrong, as the baby step towards wireless electricity was initiated by the famous inventor Thomas Edison & physicist Nikola Tesla in late 19th century. But the credit for a giant leap for practical implementation of the theoretical concept goes to a team of researchers from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by Prof. Marin Soljacic (pronounced Soul-ya-cheech). Based on his team’s work numerous companies have started to innovate on a bigger scale for a commercially viable wireless electrical technology. The most significant player among these companies, is the US firm WiTricity. As per a BBC report on 23rdJuly 2009, Eric Giler, CEO of Witricity, showed mobile phones and televisions charging wirelessly at the TED Global conference in Oxford.
As per CNN report of 2 September 2009, the technology used by WiTricity Corp. is known as 'Magnetically coupled resonance' and “it basically sends a magnetic field through the air at a specific frequency that an enabled phone or TV can pick up and turn back into electricity. It works kind of like sound. Think about how an opera singer can break a wine glass if he sings at just the right frequency”.
What was the ‘spark’ for innovation?
*The story starts one late night a few years ago, with Soljacic 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."
How it works?
A white-board scheme of things is represented here in the image captioned "CIRCA 2014". A magnetic coil will be plugged into your mains (AC power) which will serve as a ‘Power Source’. One similar coil will be embedded into your gizmo which will serve as a ‘Capture Device’. As per WiTricity Corp’s technology, these coils are specially designed magnetic resonators capable of efficient electricity transfer via the magnetic near field. Based on this prototype, WiTricity Corp has also successfully demonstrated wireless powering of an LCD TV. You can find a better graphical & video explanation of the technology here.
How long will it take for the battery-less / power Cord-less gizmos?
The CNN report mentioned above quotes Eric Giler: "Five years from now, this will seem completely normal". Let's hope the team will get rid of the ubiquitous wires & batteries sooner.
Pros & Cons?
• Companies are manufacturing about 40 billion of batteries every year. A slow & steady Environmental hazard. Check.
• Around the world, a huge amount of money is invested in building metallic infrastructure of wires for electricity transmission. In the long run, may be Wireless electricity will help in reducing this expense to a great extent.
• As with any system, there are some concerns regarding health hazards associated with the electomagnetic waves but CNN report quotes Giler to explain that the technology would produce magnetic fields that are "about the same density as the earth's magnetic field."
Let's keep our fingers crossed and wait for the moment when Nokia announces its first battery-less phone. The euphoria begins…
*Excerpt used with e-Mail permission from MIT News Office, Dated: 30 Sep 2009.
MIT News: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/wireless-0607.html
Inspiration for this post: Anil Kumar Bavisetty (colleague)