June 10, 2007

Wireless phones. Wireless networking. Wireless electricity. Had to happen sooner or later, right?

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers announced last week they had made a 60-watt light bulb glow by sending it energy wirelessly, potentially previewing a future in which cell phones and other gadgets get juice without having to be plugged in.

The breakthrough, disclosed in Science Express, an online publication of the journal Science, is being called "WiTricity" by the scientists.

The concept of sending power wirelessly isn't new, but its wide-scale use has been dismissed as inefficient because electromagnetic energy generated by the charging device would radiate in all directions.

Last fall, though, MIT physics professor Marin Soljacic explained how to transfer the power with specially tuned waves. The key is to get the charging device and a gadget to resonate at the same frequency -- allowing them to efficiently exchange energy.

It's similar to how an opera star can break a wine glass that happens to resonate at the same frequency as her voice. In fact, the concept is so basic in physics that inventor Nikola Tesla sought a century ago to build a huge tower on Long Island that would wirelessly beam power along with communications.

The new step described in Science was that the MIT team put the concept into action. The scientists lit a 60-watt bulb that was 7 feet away from the power-generating appliance.

The development raises the prospect that we might eliminate some of the clutter of cables in our evermore electronic world.

That sound you hear is Tiffany, who hates hates hates the clutter of cables in our house, doing the Happy Dance. If there's a beta program for this, I suspect she'll want in on it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 10, 2007 to Technology, science, and math

We already have it. It is known as solar energy.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on June 10, 2007 10:49 PM

I mentioned this to my dad this morning and he reminded that his dad, my grandfather, died of leukemia from working in an electric generator plant for 30 years. Nearly every guy in the plant, three of his dad's closest friends, died of the same thing. I'm sure theres a body of research on cancer risk due to exposure to electromagnetic fields somewhere (basic google search doesn't yield much), but until I hear its completely safe, I'd remain skeptical.

Posted by: Pat Knapp on June 11, 2007 1:37 AM