Wireless Charging – A Magnetic Future

If you are sitting at your workspace take a look around you. How many wires and cords do you see? As our lives become more and more dependent on electronic devices (iPods, cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, wireless routers, modems, dvrs and more), we need an equal number of wires and plugs to either power or recharge them. The result can be a tangled, twisted and overwhelming mess. And when we are on the go, finding power sources can also be a challenge. Have you ever had to sit on the floor at the airport to charge your laptop?

Well, meet MIT physics professor and WiTricity founder Marin Soljačić. In 2007, he found WiTricity with the vision of making wireless electricity a reality. The basis for the technology is the concept of resonant coupling where the magnetic fields of two properly designed devices with closely matched resonant frequencies can couple into a single continuous magnetic field. According to the companies website:

Resonant coupling is a well-understood concept illustrated by many everyday examples. A child pumps her legs at the resonant frequency of a swing to fly through the air, or an opera singer shatters a wine glass by singing a single note at a frequency that matches the acoustic resonance of the glass.

The real world result of all this science is that many of our everyday electronic devices can exchange energy with a nearby wall unit via magnetism. The company envisions a future where these magnetic power sources are embedded in the walls and carpets of homes, making for a truly wire-free environment. The company believes that with a big enough power supply source and a network of wireless repeaters that office buildings, retails stores and many other buildings could also become wire-free.

But is this technology safe? The human body responds to electric fields, but it does not absorb energy generated by low-level magnetic fields. WiTricity CEO Eric Giler says, “If you are okay living on Earth, then you should be okay with what we are doing at WiTricity. Our technology generates less radiation than the Earth’s magnetic field; it is one hundred times safer than a cell phone and generates a million times less radiation than an MRI machine.”

Beyond the simplicity and convenience this technology has to offer, the electric auto industry is expected to make huge strides. One of the largest entry barriers for consumers is the need to constantly plug in their vehicles. Imagine, instead, a world in which dynamic, wireless charging stations are installed at stoplights, parking lots, etc. Drivers can ‘charge on the go.’ The possibilities of this technology are limited only by our imaginations.