Friday, June 08, 2007

Wireless Power: More than Just Another Useless Idea from the Bay

Once again, a great idea that originated in the Bay (that's our laboratory bay and the Bay in Bayblab) has been ripped off and put into practice by brilliant engineers at MIT. This one was the topic of a random conversation about how awesomely liberating wireless data transfer technology is, except that the true portability of your laptops, PDAs, iPHONES, etc is still severely limited by short battery life. Enter wireless power was our idea, and then you would have ultimate electronic freedom and connectivity available anytime, anywhere. Good thing the geeks at MIT were listening in on our conversation with their Whisper2000s, because now they have demonstrated the feasibility of the idea by beaming power wirelessly to a 60W lightbulb over a distance of 7 feet. The power transfer is not achieved by radio waves, which would diffuse all over the place rather than specifically to the device you want to power, nor by lasers, which require a direct line of site to the target and could fry any objects that get in the way (such as the geeks sitting between the source and target above). Rather, the new technology awesomely transfers power through magnetic resonance:

"WiTricity is based on using coupled resonant objects. Two resonant objects of the same resonant frequency tend to exchange energy efficiently, while interacting weakly with extraneous off-resonant objects. A child on a swing is a good example of this. A swing is a type of mechanical resonance, so only when the child pumps her legs at the natural frequency of the swing is she able to impart substantial energy.

Another example involves acoustic resonances: Imagine a room with 100 identical wine glasses, each filled with wine up to a different level, so they all have different resonant frequencies. If an opera singer sings a sufficiently loud single note inside the room, a glass of the corresponding frequency might accumulate sufficient energy to even explode, while not influencing the other glasses. In any system of coupled resonators there often exists a so-called "strongly coupled" regime of operation. If one ensures to operate in that regime in a given system, the energy transfer can be very efficient."

Just goes to show that any idiot can have an idea for a great new technology, but it take a team of real geeks to make it happen.

I can't even imagine what this technology would mean for energy trade and availability. Imagine what it would do for power grids...peer-to-peer energy sharing? Suddenly energy technology would not have to rely on a small number of centralized, high yield sources, but rather would be all about a de-centralized network consisting of a vast number of even the lowest-yield energy generators. Call it Nanopower, or the Enerweb - free, clean energy for everyone!