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Power Technology

Wireless Power Demonstrated 124

Posted by kdawson
from the spooky-action-at-a-distance dept.
Necroloth and other readers sent in the story of Witricity's latest demo at the TED Global conference in Oxford, UK. The company is developing a system that can deliver power to devices without the need for wires. The idea is not new — electrical pioneers Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla assumed that power would be delivered wirelessly. The BBC quotes the inventor behind Witricity's tech as saying that Tesla and Edison "...couldn't imagine dragging this vast infrastructure of metallic wires across every continent." eWeek Europe notes some hurdles the technology must overcome: "The 2007 experiment it is based on had an efficiency of only around 45 percent, but [Witricity's CEO] promised power delivered wirelessly would start out 15 percent more expensive than wires, and improve on that." Intel has also demonstrated wireless charging.
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Wireless Power Demonstrated

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  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Friday July 24, 2009 @04:38PM (#28813321)
    Here's a company that's had wireless power tech since 2007:
    http://www.powercastco.com/ [powercastco.com]
    They even won a best of CES 2007 award from CNET:
    http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-12760_7-9673092-5.html [cnet.com]
    They released working wirelessly powered Christmas tree lights in December 2007 as a consumer product!
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-9793204-1.html [cnet.com]
    So this type of wireless power tech has been available in consumer products since 2007 and it appears that there has not been a lot of interest. I am really mystified as why nobody cares. Is it because they mistake this technology for some other kind of well known technology? I can't figure out the psychology here.
  • Re:Edison? (Score:3, Informative)

    by n3umh (876572) on Friday July 24, 2009 @04:45PM (#28813401) Homepage
    It's not only possible, but really damn easy to do.

    You can build a reasonably efficient resonant power transfer doohickey in your backyard out of some copper tubing, some low loss tuning capacitors, a RF power generator, and some diodes and filter caps on the far end to turn the received RF into DC.

    I've built one to couple 4MHz pulses across to a rotating experiment for ultrasound measurement: http://n3ox.net/files/us_ring.jpg [n3ox.net]

    You couple 'em that tightly, and they're like 99% efficient at transferring power.

    But even with Tesla aside, this isn't new... it's just not as vastly useful as people re-discovering it seem to think it is. It doesn't work over gigantic distances, only moderate ones, and there's no engineering you can do to get around that. It's near-field coupling between resonant circuits. That said, I think it might end up pretty useful for non-contact charging of your electric car like TFA suggests. That's a *good* application for it, and it has more efficiency than "ordinary" inductive coupling.
  • As a physicist... (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Master Control P (655590) <ejkeever&nerdshack,com> on Friday July 24, 2009 @04:46PM (#28813431)
    I'd like to be the first to complain that resonant power transfer has nothing to do with quantum entanglement.

    You'll be getting a memo from the Tesla Death Ray department shortly; Not observing it won't save you.
  • by stevenj (9583) <(stevenj) (at) (alum.mit.edu)> on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:34PM (#28813971) Homepage
    There are several very different schemes currently being explored for wireless power transfer, with different strengths and weaknesses.
    • Radiative transfer: send a directed beam of energy from a source to a receiver. The advantage is that this can work over long distances, the disadvantage is that you need to either have fixed locations or some active tracking system to keep pointing at the receiver as it moves around, and you need some kind of automated kill switch to make sure you don't accidentally fry anything that walks between the transmitter and receiver or waste power when the receiver is not there. It looks like PowerCast [powercastco.com] and PowerBeam [powerbeaminc.com] fall into this category.
    • Traditional inductive, non-radiative power transfer. This works well, and does not transfer power when the receiver is absent, but is extremely short-range if you want any kind of efficiency; typically, the device to be charged must be sitting directly on or adjacent to the charger. The Wireless Power Consortium [wirelesspo...ortium.com] is pursuing this kind of approach.
    • Resonant, non-radiative power transfer. This relies on the source and receiver being electrical resonators at the same frequency, so that they preferentially transfer energy to one another rather than to other objects in the environment via resonant coupling. This is the approach being pursued by WiTricity [witricity.com], where they additionally rely on resonators that couple primarily via magnetic fields (the electric-field energy is mostly in capacitors inside the devices), which have the advantage that most materials are non-magnetic at these frequencies so the power source dissipates very little energy into extraneous objects (or people). (In contrast, Tesla coils produce strong electric fields external to the device, which interact much more strongly with matter; it's no coincidence that Tesla coils are used as lightning generators.) This operates efficiently at mid-range distances although not as far as radiative transfer (meters at most), does not transfer or dissipate power when the receiver is absent, and is not directional so does not require active "pointing" of the power at the receiver. But it is more complicated than the short-range non-resonant inductive transfer, and requires careful impedance-matching of the source and receiver.

    Full disclosure: I know Prof. Soljacic at MIT, who founded WiTricity, although I personally have no financial interest in the company; all of the above information is public and published, however.

  • Re:Thomas Edison ??? (Score:3, Informative)

    by westlake (615356) on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:49PM (#28814673)

    Electrical pioneer my ass, he just got lucky once and was able to afford to hire good talent

    Luck favors the prepared.

    1869 Stock ticker

    1874 Quadruplex telegraph [wikipedia.org] [Polar modulation]
    Rights sold to Western Union for $10,000. [about $170,000 in 2005 dollars Historical Value of U.S. Dollar [mykindred.com]]

    Menlo Park was in the business of invention. That in itself was a new idea.

    1877 Phonograph

    The most interesting thing about the phonograph is that no one saw it coming.

    1880 Incandescent lamp.

    Edison needed a lamp which could be wired in parallel. His team had to design every component - down to the wiring, fixtures, fuses and switches that would be safe for use in the home.

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