Intel Demos Bizarre Tesla-esque Wireless Power Transmission System
August 22, 2008 9:25 AM
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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.
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.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
8/22/2008 4:52:32 PM
While it is relatively easy to convert AC to DC, its can also be quite inefficient. The power lost during the conversion is why our wall warts and laptop power bricks get hot. As more of our appliances these days use DC it only makes sense to consolidate the conversion hardware into a higher efficiency centralized unit that could power all DC devices, rather than the multitude of lower efficiency wall warts we currently use.
As for Solar Power Satellites, that's a rather different and better proven technology. It uses the same phenomenon that causes metal objects in a microwave oven to produce sparks. The electromagnetic energy of the microwave photons hitting metal is transduced into electrical energy. The microwave beam can be focused enough that it remains efficient over the distance from orbit to Earth.
The technology the article discusses uses magnetic fields rather than electromagnetic photons as the carrier, and as a field cannot be highly focused like a microwave beam, its efficiency decreases dramatically as the distance is increased.
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