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It's not voodoo -- Intel's just showing off its wireless power transmission system at its IDF conference. The system could be worked into Intel's upcoming chipsets.  (Source:
Intel rounds off its developers forum with a wild new upcoming tech

Wireless is one of those hot tech catch-alls of the new millennium.  There's wireless broadcasters and receivers, utilizing such technology as WiMax, 802.11n, and Bluetooth.  There's wireless gaming controllers.  There's just about wireless everything -- except power transmission.

Wireless power transmission is something that inventor Nikolai Tesla came up with over a century ago and claimed to have perfected.  However, his mysterious work vanished with his death, and for decades the topic was left untouched.  Now there has been a resurgence in interest with several companies competing to becoming the first to offer commercially broadcast wireless power.

At the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) this month, Intel demoed just such a system.  Using two large coils it showcased a system that could send 60 watts of power at 75 percent efficiency up to 3 feet.  The power was enough to light up a bulb at the receiving end.

Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer describes, "Something like this technology could be embedded in tables and work surfaces, so as soon as you put down an appropriately equipped device it would immediately begin drawing power."

A computer-powering desk is just what Intel is cooking up in fact.  It says a desk with embedded transmission equipment could power laptops and eliminate the need for messy cables and proprietary connectors.

The new tech was first developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Marin Soljacic.  Professor Soljacic came up with the idea of transmitting wireless power via resonant magnetic fields.  He calls the invention WiTricity, a blend of the words wireless and electricity.  The work relies heavily on the electric concept of induction.  Induction is already used commercially on a limited scale, to recharge certain powered toothbrushes.

Intel helped improve upon MIT's design, bringing the efficiency up from 50 percent to 75 percent.  Internally, Intel is speculating that the device may permit and work with the shift from batteries to supercapacitors.  While currently more expensive, supercapacitors could allow faster recharging. Mr. Rattner states, "In the future, your kitchen counters might do it.  You’d just drop your espresso maker down on them and you would never have to plug it in."

Intel calls its new technology a "wireless resonant energy link".  It uses transmitting loop antennas, less than 2 feet in diameter.

It is competing with a couple scrappy startups, who are also looking to improve upon MIT's technology.  Startups WildCharge, based in Boulder, Colo., and WiPower, based in Altamonte Springs, Fla. both are looking to make their name in wireless power history.  While both have announced consumer devices based on their upcoming technologies, their devices currently require the item to be touching the transmitter.

The advantage of Intel's device is it can transmit power even when not in contact.  And the receiver antenna is about the size of a laptop base, Intel researchers note.  Joshua R. Smith, an Intel researcher at a company laboratory in Seattle who is leading the project, states, "From Intel’s position that seems like the thing to shoot for right now.  It could be that cellphones and P.D.A.’s are even more compelling, but I think we are going to start with the laptop. It’s easy to dial down from laptops."

Mr. Smith also demoed how the technology could improve the field of robotics.  Sensors using the power transmission and reception technologies could use electric fields to detect objects, similar to how some fish detect objects in water.  In a demo the robot used these sensors to neatly grasp an apple, which it then loyally delivered to a waiting human hand.

Intel, according to Mr. Smith, will be developing a prototype of transmission system for laptops, which may be added to upcoming chipsets.  Thus, the next generation of laptops may be cord free.

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RE: two issues come to mind...
By markitect on 8/22/2008 12:39:01 PM , Rating: 2
Intel is just blowing smoke 75% efficiency with parallel coils is not a big deal. But the second you rotate them relative to each other the induced current is going to be reduced by a factor of the cosine of the angle between them, not to mention the fact that the field reduces in power by the distance squared, and the field is further reduced if you are off axis. So you achieve 75% efficiency you have to be standing within 3 feet of one of two ends of a large powerful magnetic field. This is not useful, and will never be useful. I don't know if Intel thinks its at a high school science fair, but this is never going to be used.

RE: two issues come to mind...
By markitect on 8/22/2008 12:42:28 PM , Rating: 2
And by the way the new technology is just a higher frequency AC current which allows magnetic flux to saturate the air better (not a new concept as is mentioned).

RE: two issues come to mind...
By snownpaint on 8/22/2008 1:32:14 PM , Rating: 2
Tesla was a true genius.. Thru and thru..
I have a book of his patents, which are easy enough to make at home with enough wire, and powerful enough to make you electric bill really high. He is one of the reasons we use AC current instead of DC, which Edison pushed.

Tesla was a big fan of magnetic flux and electric fields.. He demonstrated this idea in 1891 by lighting up vacuum tubes in his lab. He also was able to light bulbs by sending currents thru the earth from 100's of feet away.

If I could hang out with a inventor for a month, it would probably be Tesla, even over Da Vinci..

RE: two issues come to mind...
By grath on 8/22/2008 5:14:16 PM , Rating: 3
This is not useful, and will never be useful.

That is quite a statement and one I strongly disagree with. According to the article, the first practical application of the technology that Intel intends to pursue is building it into tabletops to power laptops. The distance between the supply coils in the table and the receiving coils in the laptop would be mere centimeters apart so that falloff of the field strength is not an issue. Since it also lays flat on the surface, or even at a small angle if the back is elevated, the coils remain close to parallel so that is also not an issue.

If you think that simply eliminating the cord from the laptop to an outlet is no big deal, tell that to my clients in the computer and audio visual rental business who constantly complain about how ugly the cables look and how much time it takes to properly conceal them or indeed have to run a temporary power infrastructure to power 200 laptops in a hotel ballroom with taped down lines run all over the place. I can almost guarantee that hotels that host many corporate events will be the first major customer for tables using this technology.

As for powering a light bulb from a distance of three feet, that is merely a better visualization of the technology for demonstration purposes, and as you say, not particularly useful for a practical application.

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