From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Discovery May Snip Power Cords for Today Rechargeable Gadgets


A recent Eureka! moment in physics could lead to similar moments in other fields as developers explore the many potential applications of the discovery. Dubbed WiTricity for wireless electricity, it cuts the cord between small rechargeable devices, such as laptops and cell phones, and power outlets. Already there is talk of a future without the typical rat’s nest of cables needed to recharge today’s gadgets.

As reported in Scientific American, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology demonstrated a process that uses magnetic resonance to transmit electricity wirelessly and illuminated a 60-watt light bulb not connected to any power source. They tested their theory by building a pair of 30-centimeter-wide copper coils and plugging a light bulb into the receiving coil.

The next stage is shrinking the coils and increasing the distance between them, according to the journal, so that a single WiTricity base station could power a roomful of rechargeable gadgets that each contains its own small coil.

Professor Marin Soljacic, who led the team, told The Wall Street Journal he thinks manufacturers could include such coils in battery-powered devices such as laptop computers to make automated, wireless recharging possible. The idea came from the low-battery beeping of his cell phone when he had forgotten to put it on its charger. He told the newspaper that the technology doesn’t work over long distances, but functions well within average sized rooms in homes. 

But one possibility could sink the discovery. Theoretical physicist Douglas Stone of Yale University, who was not part of the study, explained in the WSJ article that it would be a “showstopper” if “people, entities or devices that are not supposed to absorb the radiation do absorb it."

Source: Scientific American; Wall Street Journal