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Power pads, which use magnetic induction, are already on the market, like the Palm Pre's chargin Touchstone, shown here. They only work over short distances, though, and require custom form factors.  (Source:

Witricity uses magnetically couple resonance to transmit power over longer distances, as shown here. The company's CEO predicts the company's technology will be ubiquitous within five years. However, health concerns about the powerful magnet fields it uses remain.  (Source: Business Unusual)
Company believes that computers, phones, and EVs will within 5 years be operating without cords

You can't fault WiTricity for its ambition.  As one of several companies looking to market emerging wireless power transmission technologies, WiTricity is making some of the boldest claims.  Among the claims made by the company -- that within a year wireless power will be taking the mobile electronics industry by storm.

The concept of wireless power transmission is a relatively old one.  In the 1890s, Nikolai Tesla was successful in illuminating incandescent light bulbs with wirelessly transmitted power.  However, for decades this research lay dormant and untouched.

With modern telecommunications and interest in signals at an all time high, interest in the topic again picked up.  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in particular, developed some intriguing technology that WiTricity would later be founded upon.

Eric Giler, CEO of WiTricity says that power transmission over several feet is an obtainable feat.  He states, "Five years from now, this will seem completely normal.  The biggest effect of wireless power is attacking that huge energy wasting that goes on where people buy disposable batteries.  [And] Electric cars [are] absolutely gorgeous, but does anyone really want to plug them in?"

WiTricity isn't the only player in this new market, though.  Several key technologies, each championed by different companies, are emerging.

One is radio power.  Though only able to transmit small amounts of power, this approach can work over a long distance.  A Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, company called Powercast is among the pioneers in this field, using its technology to power temperature sensors in large office buildings and to power wireless Christmas trees (sold for $400 a piece).  The company has lit up an LED with radio signals from 1.5 miles away.

Another approach is power pads.  Advantages include low costs and relatively high efficiencies.  Disadvantages include the extremely short distance and need for custom shapes and sizes of pads.  This technology currently is employed in the Palm Pre's recharging stone and in electric toothbrush recharging stands.

WiTricity's technology works on a third type of transmission -- magnetically coupled resonance.  Similar to sound waves, the transmission creates a magnetic field, that devices can convert locally to electricity.  This technology enjoys a middle ground with a bit worse efficiency, a bit longer distance, and moderate costs.  Intel is also working on a more efficient version of this approach.

Despite WiTricity's optimism about its new approach, challenges remain.  A full deployment is estimated to possibly create a magnetic field as strong as the Earth's own magnetic field.  According to recent research, referenced by Menno Treffers, chairman of the steering group at the Wireless Power Consortium, such a strong magnetic field can cause serious health risks.

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Low tech home appliances have been waiting for this
By Zedtom on 9/3/2009 9:41:48 AM , Rating: 3
I have a friend who works for a large floor care appliance company. Their engineers have been working for years on a feasible alternative to cords for vacuum cleaners. I'm not talking about the roombas and other playthings, but ordinary carpet sweepers that are used everyday.

The limitations and inconvenience of corded appliances make this an idea whose time has come.

By imaheadcase on 9/3/2009 9:57:56 AM , Rating: 2
It marvels me every time i use my electric toothbrush how it charges just sitting it down. You don't even have to use the stand, just lay it next to it.

By inperfectdarkness on 9/3/2009 10:06:01 AM , Rating: 4
i would hope that 100 years of invention would have assisted tesla's ideas. then again...i'm not sure how efficient it would be to have everyone running around looking like they got their genitals stuck on a van de graaff generator.

but it would be funny.

By darkhawk1980 on 9/3/2009 10:49:40 AM , Rating: 3
100 years of invention would have assisted Tesla's ideas...If our government would not have confiscated a large portion of his research upon his death. At the time they were afraid the Nazi's would use it against the U.S. Either way, my understanding is that a large portion of his more interesting research is locked away for atleast another 25 years...I would have loved to have seen Tesla back when he was still alive. Brilliant man, that would most likely not be amazed with the world today.

By threepac3 on 9/3/2009 1:14:51 PM , Rating: 2
I guess its also where they keep the Ark of the Covenant, ah.

By 91TTZ on 9/3/2009 5:18:46 PM , Rating: 2
Ugh. Stop believing in cheap conspiracy theories.

People who buy into all this mystical crap are people without a solid understanding of physics. What Tesla did was firmly grounded in physics, there's nothing magical going on. His papers are not top secret and all that information is now known.

By rcc on 9/4/2009 12:37:11 PM , Rating: 2
It's obviously in Warehouse 13.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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