Wireless Electricity Is Near

Posted by Michelle Lanz

652486713_287f8f94f3_bImagine a world where cords do not exist. Where surge protectors and extension cords are obsolete and multiple wall sockets are unnecessary.What if your electronic devices could be powered by air?Sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, but that world of ultra-convenience is right around the corner, according to WiTricity, a Massachusetts-based company that says it will have wireless electricity on the market within the next two years. It's a bold statement and the first time a company has publicly announced plans to make the technology commercially available.Based on the theory and methods developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, enterprising professor and MacArthur Genius Grant-winner Marin Solja?i? and his team of scientists have developed a way to harness and concentrate electric power, then project it several meters. The invisible currents then power computers, TVs, stereos, and just about anything electronic. In other words, this thing is bound to put the extension cord industry out of business.So how will it work, and more importantly, how do we know it's safe?The idea is that WiTricity coils plugged into an electrical source will be embedded into the wall of your home or hidden behind a bookcase or couch. These coils then send radiant electricity to electronic devices throughout a specified area via magnetic fields (no not that kind. This kind).This is non-radiative, magnetic energy, meaning it won't cook you like a microwave or burn you like a laser. The world-renowned physicist Sir John Pendry of Imperial College London explains on the group's site: "The body really responds strongly to electric fields, which is why you can cook a chicken in a microwave. But it doesn't respond to magnetic fields. As far as we know the body has almost zero response to magnetic fields in terms of the amount of power it absorbs."Hmm, sounds ok, except for that whole "as far as we know" part.It's hard to process just exactly how this will work, since we can't actually see the power flying through the air (and since WiTricity's Web site is dense with MIT scientist-lingo). But the group has already been able to power a light bulb from two feet away and is well on its way to taking it to the next level.It's worth mentioning that this isn't new technology. The Austrian scientist Nikola Tesla was the first to develop the idea and the technology to transfer electricity through the air in the late 1800s. But for anyone who has seen a Tesla Coil in action knows, he definitely stopped short of making it consumer-friendly.As with any out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new invention, important questions need to be answered: Will this new way to power our devices increase our already soaring energy use? Are there side effects to the transfer of electricity through the air? What's going to happen to all the electricians of the world?There's no way anyone can know right now. But in a world where everything seems like it's been done before, isn't it fun to be on the cusp of something revolutionary?Guest blogger Michelle Lanz is a writer living in Los Angeles. Photo (cc) by Flickr user j / f/ photos.