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‘WiTricity’ wireless electricity for all?

Tuesday, 12 June 2007 — by

There was once this Serbian called Nikola Tesla who had these crazy, amazing ideas about wireless electricity.

At the time he was doing his most notable and respected work, wireless technology was as much the rage then as it is now.

He had this idea of “a ‘world system’ for ‘the transmission of electrical energy without wires'” which must have seemed within reach at the time, but wasn’t to be realized…

For the someone who was credited as being the “the man who invented the twentieth century”, if he was alive today, he might just be wondering why it took so long!

After all, there’s been so many other technological advancements, why has wireless electricity not been realized sooner?

But here it is, wireless electricity is now a fact of the modern world, and things might never be the same ever again:

“Researchers in the US have demonstrated an experimental wireless energy transfer system that could pave the way for truly wireless computing. The team has already successfully made a 60W light bulb light up from a distance of 2 metres.”

I’ll spare you the in-depth technical stuff, because it’s largely quite boring. And if I must be honest, I don’t really care too much how they managed this fabulous feat.

Sigh. Oh, go on then:

“The experiment exploits the phenomenon of resonant coupling. It involves two copper coils of two feet in diameter. One, the transmitter, is connected to a power source and the other is connected to a light bulb. The two coils are set up two metres apart, and when the transmitter is switched on, the light bulb (attached to the receiver) lights up.”

Now that’s enough, OK? No more!

Rather than explain what wireless electricity might mean for our world, what about a little excursion into the future? To see how our children might be living with wireless energy.

What if wireless electrical technology really took off? In the not-too-distant future, our lives could be markedly very, very different.

In the year 2030

“I’m out of range. I can’t get either signal. Man, this muni’ coverage is crap!” She curses, rolling her eyes as she closes the lid on her laptop. She snatches her bag from the floor besides her feet, scaring off the two pigeons hanging around for crumbs.

Pushing her half-eaten ham salad on brown down into her bag, she stands abruptly and begins the walk purposefully back to where she knows for sure she can get both power and radio signals.

She’s never liked municipal wireless in this town all that much, and the fact that she can’t make the most of her lunch hour in the park close to the office makes her blood boil.

So off she goes, back to the cafe on the street corner, knowing she’ll end up with the table down-wind of the fat guy and up close to the couple who always meet to argue over utility bills, who’s friends are better, which one is going to drive to the party tonight and life in general.

The energy network is everywhere. Our houses, homes and offices are the nations electricity grid.

So long as you’re within one hundred meters of some building or another, that all-important gadget that is a silicon summary of your life will never run flat and need a recharge.

This is the world of wireless energy.

Every building is coated with paints and materials that incorporate photovoltaic cells. Solar panels to you & me. Every form of renewable energy production is being tapped.

All of the power being produced by every square inch of property standing more than ten feet from the ground is contributing to the energy needs of the nation.

The energy being captured by small housing projects and estates is being ‘load balanced’ so that no one house ever runs low. And if they do, then they tap into the grater grid, wirelessly.

Hundreds of kilometers above the Earth, scientists partly funded by various military branches experiment in transmitting energy across much greater distances.

The hope is to power devices not just on the surface of some extreme environment on the surface, but also below the surface. Beneath both soil and sea.

This is the year 2030 and cables and wires are now an anachronism.

In the year 2060

We now farm energy directly from the Sun.

Far, far beyond the motherly embrace of our home world, out in space, colossal platforms congregate in the empty reaches of space.

Outstretched into the dark abyssal, their mechanical arms like thinning tendrils shod in thin sheets of shimmering composites absorb the ceaseless, tireless efforts of the Sun whose rays wash over them.

These shining, majestic automated rigs sit conformably at the Legrange Distance, drawing off the purer energy of the Sun, the modulated form of which is beamed directly to the swarm of satellites, waiting patiently in geo-synchonus orbit around our Earth tens of millions of kilometers away.

This abundant energy is issued to stations on the surface, relayed then onwards to our homes and our places of work, of education, of leisure, of healthcare and even of warfare.

Seen only as a pale blue smudge against the vacant void of the ink black firmament, our Earth now moves inexorably towards free energy for all.

This is the year 2060 and phrases such as: “energy crisis” are now an anachronism…

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David Bradley → Tuesday, 12 June 2007 @ 8:45 BDT

Cambridge company Splashpower for which a friend of mine is the Big Cheese are almost ready to market their version of wireless electricity far sooner than Witricity will be available. But, aside from the likely scaremongering…I mean, ahem, safety concerns that witricity will bring, there is the problem of efficiency.

Copper wiring is pretty efficient at carrying power from an outlet to a device. Induction devices are much less so. We already lose 8% in “standby” mode. the desire to ditch the spaghetti behind the TV will do nothing more than add to our carbon footprint. Just get some cable tidies instead.

db

Wayne Smallman → Tuesday, 12 June 2007 @ 8:59 BDT

Well the important thing for me, you being the resident scientist, is that you didn’t laugh out loud at my prognostications.

So anything else is a bonus.

But seriously, I think the potential is amazing, assuming the distance and efficiency issues can be resolved, which I suspect will be just a time thing…

Web Comments! → Friday, 13 July 2007 @ 0:30 BDT

Witricity News, Experimental Videos And Information.

Patrick Callahan → Monday, 14 April 2008 @ 2:43 BDT

Uhm, for your info guys, this stuff can be extremely dangerous if there’s some kind of malfunction. If the resonance is interfered, even slightly, you could have all that electricity pass through your body, just like it’s passing through the lightbulb.

The key to this wireless electricity stuff is the frequency at which the electricity is transmitted at. High frequencies will travel along your skin, but not penetrate it. At a certain point though, when the frequency is lower, the electricity can pass through you. Not fun.

Wayne Smallman → Monday, 14 April 2008 @ 9:11 BDT

Hi Patrick and thanks for the comment!

I’d read about the frequency issue in a more academic document at the time, but didn’t think it was mentionable. The reason being it’s most likely one of those things that will be resolved as the technology matures.

Thanks again…

Boros Sipox → Saturday, 12 September 2009 @ 7:50 BDT

I don’t like when some dirty scientist take credit for things that invented Nikola Tesla in his life time :/ why do you steal things that are not yours? why do you claim you invented them? Witricity is only using Tesla patents.

Wayne Smallman → Saturday, 19 September 2009 @ 13:41 BDT

Hi Baros! Tesla died a long time ago, and any patents he may have filed will have expired a long time ago.

I make no such claims to his patents, since I’m not a scientist.

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