Brave New World – Part II

Ken AshfordScience & Technology1 Comment

Okay.  You’ve got a cell phone, a laptop, and all the various things plugged in to your wall in your house.  What do they have in common?

Well, not to be obvious, but they all require a power source — i.e., electricity.  Electricity comes from a power source, like the electricity connected to your home courtesy of Duke Power or Con Ed, or electricity which comes from a battery (which needs recharging via the electricity connected to your home courtesy of Duke Power or Con Ed).

Now bear with me on this, because this is cool —

Back in the dawning age of electricity, many scientists — most notably Nikoli Tesla (played by David Bowie in a recent film) — believed that electricity could be transmitted.  That idea never came to be, sadly.

But not too long ago, we always had wired communication.  Our telephones, for example, had a receiver which was connected to a base unit, which was connected to our wall, which was connected to the pole outside our house, which had wires going everywhere in the world.

Now, of course, there are wireless communications (cell phones, cordless phones, etc.) and we think nothing of it.

Is it possible to do the same thing with electricity?  Tesla thought it was possible.

A group of physicists from MIT thinks it is possible too. They’re proposing a design for a wireless power transmission system that could make power cables and battery chargers things of the past. What’s more, the researchers believe the power source could run buses or possibly even nano-robots tooling around inside your body.

Transmitting_power416The system they are proposing doesn’t broadcast power the way an antenna does. Radiating energy out to space would be wasteful. Instead, a power source (1) creates a short range oscillating electric field (2) — what they’re calling "resonance"(3).  Properly tuned circuits that are within range of the source (4) suck up some of the energy. If there are no electronics to charge or power nearby, then most of the unused energy returns to the source (5).

Yeah, it sounds complicated.  And here’s more about it.  But the bottom line is this: in our lifetime, we could live in a world where the need for wall sockets, batteries, power adaptors, etc. are a thing of the past.