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Physicists Promise Wireless Power 411

StrongGlad writes "The tangle of cables and plugs needed to recharge today's electronic gadgets could soon be a thing of the past. Researchers at MIT have outlined a relatively simple system that could deliver power wirelessly to devices such as laptop computers or MP3 players. In a nutshell, their solution entails installing special 'non-radiative' antennae with identical resonant frequencies on both the power transmitter and the receiving device. Any energy not diverted into a gadget or appliance is simply reabsorbed. The system currently under development is designed to operate at distances of 3 to 5 meters, but the researchers claim that it could be adapted to factory-scale applications, or miniaturized for use in the 'microscopic world.'"
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Physicists Promise Wireless Power

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  • Loss (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:37AM (#16850934)
    I can't see avoiding a large degree of power loss, and the last thing we need right now is something more inefficient than wll-warts.

    It would also suck to have a random bdy part resonate in a similar frequency ...
  • by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:40AM (#16850970) Journal
    Now I know you haven't seen the rats nest behind my desk, but 3 computers (only one a notebook), a PS2, monitor, KVM, Hub, printer, associated power strips, Nintendo DS plug and MP3 player plug... I assure you, I would not just use this for my laptop and MP3 player. I have way too many wires, and if I could remove a dozen or so of them, it'd help a lot. Add wireless networking to the mix, and wireless speakers, and it just might be manageable again... And yes, I know both of those already exist.
  • by Zigg ( 64962 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:40AM (#16850972)

    You don't think there are any safety issues inherent here? I for one was surprised to see no discussion of it at all in the BBC article.

    It well could be safe (or at least as safe as any other tech currently in use) but, man, I'd be looking at it very closely myself if I were responsible for bringing it to market.

  • wouldn't this (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Broken scope ( 973885 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:44AM (#16851020) Homepage
    be best suited for low power applications. Charging a cell phone or palm pilot for example. I mean, I don't see this working for my 500watt computer or my xbox 360. It might charge the controller for my 360, but it would really only get rid of maybe 2 cables behind my computer.
  • by Dasher42 ( 514179 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @10:03AM (#16851246)
    What would happen if these were used on highways to power electric cars? Batteries still only return a tenth of the energy put into charging them, so directly conveying power to automobiles would be interesting indeed.
  • by MrJerryNormandinSir ( 197432 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @10:05AM (#16851268)
    Nothin new hear really. remember Tesla's dream? Free wireless power. The Huge facility at colorado springs did just that.
    The only wireless energy source transmission I've seen so far is with RFID tags. have you ever taken one apart? Chek out the
    antennea.. much like the tesla antennea.
  • Microscopic gods.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Himring ( 646324 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @10:16AM (#16851420) Homepage Journal
    This sounds so much like one of the first Sci Fi books I ever read in high school called, "Microscopic gods" (or was it "Microcosmic gods"?) -- I think it was. A scientist creates microscopic evolution. He keeps experimenting, forcing "stresses" on the creatures to make them evolve. They eventually become sentient, intelligent, creative. To fund his research he invents wireless power. A congressman hooks up with him and uses subterfuge to wrist the new power invention from him. Meanwhile, his microscopic gods keep evolving until they are more advanced than the scientist himself. They refer to him as their "father" or "god" or something. The congressman sends in the military, using the wireless power, to take over the scientist's lab and even washington I think. The scientist sends a request to his creatures to invent an invulnerable forcefield to withstand the attack. They do so, but make it only big enough to cover their little area. He cannot contact them. They send him a -- for the first time ever -- message humbly asking if the parameters were right since they suspected he could not reach them. They also provide the means for him to communicate back. He tells them to increase the size to cover his island and they do. All the planes using the wireless power to take over the country crash, and senator is fouled and the scientist lives happily ever after in his grey, dome, shelled, island with his little gods. The story ends stating the military continues to use the dome for target practice....

  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @10:43AM (#16851862)
    More like it was (and remains) highly inefficient and would have used a large part of the spectrum. You could have wireless power to your home but you can kiss the cell phone, tv, radio, etc goodbye.

    A great deal of Tesla's achievements are apocryphal. There is no real proof about claims of wireless power to motors miles away and other things people attribute to him. In reality he was a clever guy but not this victim of forward thinking/backwards government as his myth protrays him as.
  • by phritz ( 623753 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @10:48AM (#16851924)
    Ummm ... I don't know if you're really unaware of the counter-argument here, but this has nothing to do with heating or not. The plain and simple fact is that DNA does not interact with light at microwave/radiowave frequencies. Therefore DNA can't get damaged by cell phone radiation. Therefore, it doesn't give you cancer. I'm still not aware of any non-crackpot scientific studies that show any evidence of tumors being caused by cell phones. If you can come up with a reference to this guy, I'd be happy to take a look, but he sure sounds like a crackpot to me.
  • by q-the-impaler ( 708563 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @10:53AM (#16851990)
    I just can't help myself. Karma me bad. This is too interesting.
    link []
  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @11:01AM (#16852102)
    I only know of Tesla due to the mention in the article, and a minute or so on Wiki.

    You're not alone. It's amazing how the man who is largely responsible for the use of AC power in our society, (Edison tried to champion DC because AC with all it's complex maths was too difficult to understand!), and the radio, (Marconi basically just used Tesla's insights to deliver a viable product for the war effort in WWI), goes unheralded.

    There's a reason for this. Tesla worked in such a way which would have exposed the world to ways of thinking about reality which lead to freedom. --Despite his push for exactly the kind of power distribution system described in this article, such thinking would have eventually led to an understanding that all matter, (including elements of the human nervous system), resonates at specific frequencies. This would have led people to question things like cell phones a little more carefully before accepting them.

    I've looked and looked, but I cannot find the reference I originally read many years ago now. . . His discovery of the radio was sparked by an incident where he was instantly aware that his mother who was in another country at the time, had just experienced a severe trauma. This experience is what caused him to think along the lines of sympathetic resonance. The science book people of today don't like guys who talk about such things. Again, it's about withholding freeing knowledge from the populace so that they are more easily controlled.


  • by fatcat101 ( 1027580 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @11:23AM (#16852378)
    Has no one else heard of similar technology from SplashPower []. I think MIT should check out the Cambridge spinoff before they go any further.
  • by BytePusher ( 209961 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:01PM (#16852948) Homepage
    Not sure if this guy should be modded up or not since he is so rude. However, he makes a good point concerning near field and far field. I worked on a project as an undergraduate to build a near field microscope. Basically you run light through a piece of optical fiber that has a special needle-with-a-little-hole-in-the-tip end on it. As the light wave propagated from the tip, it would start out small, several times smaller than the wavelength of the light. The result was that the light would interact with features much smaller than the wavelength of the light. By moving the tip across the sample in a grid like fashion and detecting the reflected or transmitted light, it is possible to build a raster image of the sample in extremely high detail. I wouldn't be surprised if the effect were not common in nature and perhaps our own skin could cause it to happen. If that is the case, then it's possible that cell-phone radiation could interact with DNA or other small organelles which are needed for cell reproduction.
  • Re:Tesla... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:07PM (#16853046)
    What Tesla came up with is not alien-abduction fiction, but true.

    Unlike what Tesla thought about the aether, we now know what RF energy is, how it propagates, and how it stores energy. We have a decent command over a large portion of the spectrum under visible light (400 nm and lower), and we understand that the frequency is linked to the relative energy of the RF.

    I once created a 20.5 MHz version of this using a car battery, but since there's soo much energy, filtering is almost pointless. I ended up wiping out a nice 4 MHz chunk of spectrum and had the FCC on me. To put it bluntly, this stuff is worse than spark-gap xmitters. I ended up dismantling this contraption when I received my Ticket (amateur radio license)

    Lest to say, it IS possible, but stick with very very low power stuff over short distances. Otherwise you'll end up doing bad things to your local electronics and receiving gear.

  • by antispam_ben ( 591349 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:43PM (#16853760) Journal
    Me being someone that's been electrocuted more times than I can count, you have to understand why this scares the living shit out of me.

    Perhaps you have received electric shocks more than once, but you can only be electrocuted (killed by an electric shock) once.

    The real danger here is excessive heating of living bodies, and possible RF burns if your hand gets too near the power transmitter. At 6 MHz, it's too high a frequency for the nervous system to respond, thus it won't shock you, but it still can hurt you.
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:47PM (#16853828) Homepage
    Tesla did a lot of great, original work. Sadly, much of his later notions were demonstrably 5 parts fancy to 1 part reality. Heck, even Mythbusters tackled one of Tesla's later proposals (the Earthquake Machine).

    Tesla's method of wireless power falls into the latter. Even if there was a copper conspiracy, it would be a good thing, because it stopped money from being poured into an unworkable design. It was based on countless false claims and pseudoscience (random example: The atmosphere above 5km is so thin that it ceases to be an insulator and instead conducts electricity with almost no losses over long distances) -- most of them simply assumptions, without a hint of scientific backing, let alone a calculation on something so critical as efficiency.

    Why Tesla is treated in a cultlike fashion ("He said it -- it must be true!") by many people around here is beyond me. He invented some great stuff. He also proposed a good bit of pseudoscience. The two are not mutually exclusive, people. In his later years, he was nearly broke, and was desperate for new contracts. He became OCD. He claimed to have completed a unified field theory, yet no notes on it were ever found. He claimed that spacetime wasn't curved, and thought that Einstein was just bedazzling people and keeping them from the truth. He made astounding claims about what his "death ray" could do, without ever doing the math (obviously -- it was basically an ion drive). He started talking about creating a "wall of light" by using a certain pattern to manipulate electromagnetic waves which would allow spacetime and matter to be tweaked at will. He even proposed a device to take pictures of peoples thoughts, which he thought appeared in the retina. He proposed an earthquake machine, and said he could shatter the world if he built a big enough resonator.

    The list goes on.

  • Re:wouldn't this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by toetagger1 ( 795806 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @01:09PM (#16854318)
    You also picked devices that already sit next to outlets in most cases, anyways. This is a lot more useful for monitoring devices, mobile devices (not just cell phones and such, but also mechanical things like romba, robots, and forklifts), and a whole new generation of new devices that weren't possible before. One thing that comes to mind is a coffee cup warmer (I know they exist with wires/batteries, but its not quite the same convenience/service that way).

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe