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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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RE: Hollywood shows up in science again
By Mitch101 on 9/3/2009 9:43:44 AM , Rating: 2
Many people saw the reviews first and not the movie. But Pacemakers came to mind when reading this.

RE: Hollywood shows up in science again
By proneax on 9/3/2009 9:46:10 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, those with pacemakers and metal implants not welcome.

RE: Hollywood shows up in science again
By axeman1957 on 9/3/2009 10:00:32 AM , Rating: 2
Metal implants are not effected by magnetic fields.

RE: Hollywood shows up in science again
By jrollins on 9/3/2009 10:14:58 AM , Rating: 2
Metal implants are not effected by magnetic fields.

I thought that MRI's affected metal implants? So wouldnt that mean that a magnetic field would?

RE: Hollywood shows up in science again
By tastyratz on 9/3/2009 11:10:32 AM , Rating: 5
Dr house taught me that prison tats with metallic ink can be impacted by a strong enough magnetic field too.

But in all reality - metal implants ARE impacted by magnetic fields if they are... MAGNETIC. Titanium is paramagnetic - so a strong enough field could create a problem.
What about simple common household items?
If every time I charge my phone, my toaster goes through a wall... it wouldn't be very practical, would it? Even if you just had your keys poke you every time you walked by... our world revolves around metals.

A field strong enough to transmit any real amounts of power over any kind of distance would concern me.

By 91TTZ on 9/3/2009 5:15:05 PM , Rating: 2
They don't just affect magnetic objects. As long as they're conductive they can generate some amount of electricity when exposed to a strong magnetic field.

By Sooticus on 9/3/2009 10:05:01 PM , Rating: 3
I think I'd just hate the fact that every time I put my wallet down on the kitchen bench the nearby charging pad would degauss my bank card.

By EasyC on 9/3/2009 12:47:44 PM , Rating: 2
Tell that to Wolverine.

By gstrickler on 9/4/2009 1:40:09 AM , Rating: 2
But what about silicone implants? Are they affected by magnetic fields?

By plowak on 9/3/2009 3:49:55 PM , Rating: 3
Not a problem, with Obama's health care plan pacemakers will be replaced with end-of-life counseling.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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