This technology is surely going to revolutionize the way we live, or at least take away the clutter of wires behind television sets and computers. Wireless electricity is a technology that transmits power from an electrical source to an electrical load without wires. This is not really a new technology, as it has been around since the 1800’s. Most agree that Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, who went on to father many of the inventions that define the modern electronic era, was the first person to transmit electricity over the air in 1890. But there has been some renewed interest and recent developments in this technology that we can begin to anticipate what is going to come next.
Simply put, this technology will enable us to power electronic equipment, like a TV or a cell phone, from a nearby socket without wires. Electricity is converted into a magnetic field, then using a frequency, sent to whatever device needs to be powered. If you use chargeable electric toothbrushes, you may have already used this technology without realizing it. If you look carefully, when you charge your toothbrush on the dock, there is no direct connection between the brush and the dock. Power is being transmitted to the brush through a magnetic field created around the dock.
In December 2008, eight leading electronics companies, including major names like Logitech, Sanyo, Phillips, and Texas Instruments, created the Wireless Power Consortium to create standards that will drive the growth of the technology. The consortium has added more high-profile names like Olympus, Samsung, and Duracell to its rosters recently.
Some companies are already making products using this technology. WiTricity Corporation, based in Watertown, MA, was founded in 2007 to commercialize an exciting new technology for wireless electricity invented two years earlier at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Eric Giler, CEO of WiTricity, says that within one year, phones and laptops will no longer need an electrical cord, as they can be powered by wireless electricity.
Powercast, based in Pittsburgh, PA, has developed wireless-charging products that can do useful things while still operating at safe power levels. Over distances of less than 1.5 meters, its technology can be used to run low-power lighting systems; at a range of up to three meters, the radio waves can provide useful power for trickle-charging rechargeable batteries; and up to approximately 7.5 meters, they can be used to power wireless sensor networks.
Fulton Innovations of Ada, MI is marketing a technology called eCoupled. eCoupled uses a wireless powering technique called “close proximity coupling,” which uses circuit boards and coils to communicate and transmit energy using magnetic fields. The technology is efficient but only works at close ranges. Using this technique, an industrial van parked outside the Fulton booth at CES charged a set of power tools from within its carrying case. The van was equipped by Leggett & Platt–a diversified manufacturing company based in Carthage, Mo., and an eCoupled licensee–and is designed to solve its customers’ biggest headache – arriving at the job site with a dead set of tools.