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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: In other news ...
By MrBlastman on 9/3/2009 12:57:57 PM , Rating: 2
While it sounds far-fetched, you can string up a long wire in your back yard and draw power from the ambient atmosphere already if you wanted to--the power would be coming from radio waves that are all around us. It might not be a lot of power that you can receive, but it is possible already without this companies technology.

I've been curious about wireless power transmission for a few years and have looked into it a bit. The idea of magnetic induction for the transfer is quite novel and fascinating at the same time. What it will do to people's health? I'm not so sure about that yet. An MRI machine works through magnetics by changing the spin rate and alignment of your hydrogen atoms. I don't think though they have tested what would happen to a person if they're stuck in the MRI machine for several months or years (I think someone would have to be insane to sit in the machine for that long--you'd know what I'm talking about if you've ever had the displeasure of laying in one).

The MRI machine is an extreme example--I've seen objects levitated by magnetics alone but these are hugely strong fields. What this induction principle proposes is a smaller field but it is a field nontheless. I think this tech will take more than 5 years to overcome everyone's fears.

There's a Wireless chrismas tree that was on sale a few years back, I'd love to check one out.

RE: In other news ...
By randomposter on 9/3/2009 1:01:27 PM , Rating: 3
From what I've heard, if you live in a house backing onto a high-voltage transmission corridor, you can (clandestinely I would imagine) bury a transformer coil underground beneath the high-tension lines and run cables back to your house. Can't claim I've ever done this but apparently you can "wirelessly" sap a fair bit of power using this technique.

RE: In other news ...
By JediJeb on 9/3/2009 1:44:04 PM , Rating: 3
I read a story about twenty years ago about someone actually doing that, placing a coil under a high power transmission line and using it to power his house. He did get caught though because it does actually draw power from the lines that the power company can measure. While searching for the problem in their lines they discovered his setup and the guy was fined for stealing electricity.

The transmission of electricity does produce stray magnetic fields, but once you convert them back into electricity it causes a net loss in the electricity that creates the field. This is not like converting radio waves into electricity though as those are actually propogating energy waves and not an EM field.

RE: In other news ...
By ArcliteHawaii on 9/3/2009 5:31:38 PM , Rating: 4
Right, so two things concern me:

1. The health issues with creating high powered magnetic fields. Children living in homes that had fields greater than 0.4 microtesla (┬ÁT) showed increased rates of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. And only a few illnesses have been studied in regards to high level EMFs.

2. What is the efficiency with something like this? It seems that a lot of electricity might be being wasted creating these fields. Also, what is the efficiency of the device to utilize the electricity?

RE: In other news ...
By MrBlastman on 9/3/2009 1:47:28 PM , Rating: 2
I've taken my trifield meter (nifty little toy you can buy at Fry's btw) and when I go under high-tension lines it goes through the ROOF. I thought of the same thing when I discovered that. I think though that Mythbusters tried this and found it partly plausible--though it would require thousands of pounds of wire in order to do so.

I haven't seen the episode though, only heard of it. According to wikipedia it was cut from the show, probably due to it being considered illegal. I can't see how it would be--if the power company lets power leak into the atmosphere, you're doing the world a service by helping to contain ambient radiation. Oh well.

At least according to my meter the amount of power and em radiation being emitted is enormous when you get under them.

RE: In other news ...
By Camikazi on 9/3/2009 3:29:01 PM , Rating: 3
Drifting aimlessly into the atmosphere is ok, drifting into your house without paying the company is illegal. Until they learn how to charge the atmosphere for stealing it they will just charge us for doing it instead :P

RE: In other news ...
By Nobleman00 on 9/3/2009 5:44:05 PM , Rating: 3
I think the problem is, how do you lay many pounds of wire under the lines, and into your place without trespassing on someone else's property.

Now if the wires are running over my yard... and you happen to see a giant coil of copper wire on my lawn, that's just some yard art.

RE: In other news ...
By FaaR on 9/4/2009 5:14:13 AM , Rating: 5
Power lines don't actually leak power into the surrounding atmosphere. While they do create magnetic fields, these are essentially quite inert until you introduce a conductor into said field to induce a current.

So you don't simply gather up otherwise wasted electricity with a coil placed beneath a power line; you actually actively leech from the transmission line. It's the same thing as if you'd drill a hole in a water mains to tap it without paying the water company.

RE: In other news ...
By Ammohunt on 9/4/2009 6:55:07 PM , Rating: 2
You sure it wasn't ghosts hanging out under the power lines? did try and record some EVP's?

RE: In other news ...
By rcc on 9/4/2009 12:29:56 PM , Rating: 4
Hmm, and you can use the money you save to help pay for the kids medical bills. : )

RE: In other news ...
By kaoken on 9/3/09, Rating: 0
RE: In other news ...
By MrBlastman on 9/3/09, Rating: 0
RE: In other news ...
By randomposter on 9/3/2009 4:47:05 PM , Rating: 4
It's all a matter of dosage my friend. Radon gas is also produced naturally by the earth in some locations. Does that mean you'd be okay being exposed to high concentrations of radon for the next couple years?

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