This has always fascinated me, wireless electricity – just imagine how useful it would be! It reminds me of a meeting with a major car parking company who were interested in making improvements to their service through ‘smart’ addons for better security and efficiency. All the examples we gave relied on wired electrical feeds which were a problem and they raised the issue that ‘wireless energy transfer’ would be a bigger breakthrough!
There has been recent progress on making this idea come true via the research efforts of Prof Marin Soljacic, who is a MacArthur Fellow (see also here and here). He was apparently inspired by the down-to-earth problem of remembering to recharge cell phones!
Soljacic is looking forward to a future when laptops and cell phones might never need any wires at all. Wireless, he said, could also power other household gadgets that are now becoming more common. “At home, I have one of those robotic vacuum cleaners that cleans your floors automatically,” he said. “It does a fantastic job but, after it cleans one or two rooms, the battery dies.” In addition to consumer electronics, wireless energy could find industrial applications powering, for example, freely roaming robots within a factory pavilion.
This pioneering research lead to the MIT spin-off WiTricity in 2007 – their website gives a clear explanation of the underlying ideas.
The idea of wireless electricity (i.e. wireless energy transfer) is not new – Nikola Tesla discussed it in the 1890’s and took out patents.
Incidentally, Tesla was quite a remarkable man and was portrayed in the 2006 film ‘The Prestige’ by David Bowie (above, centre).