Cutting the (power) cord

Cutting the (power) cord

Summary: This question always pops into my head whenever I am roaming an airport desperately seeking a place to recharge my notebook computer and other gadgets: why is it that I can get all sorts of network "juice" via wireless means, while I have to rely on some cord to keep these darn things running?


This question always pops into my head whenever I am roaming an airport desperately seeking a place to recharge my notebook computer and other gadgets: why is it that I can get all sorts of network "juice" via wireless means, while I have to rely on some cord to keep these darn things running?

Sure, you and I have both read and heard about wireless charging methods, but most of them still require some sort of contact point (they are inductive) and so far there has been little traction for these technologies. Until now. Cleantech market watcher Pike Research figures that 2012 will be the turning point for wireless charging devices, when the market will cross the $1 billion mark.

In the press release for the report, Pike Research Clint Wheelock said:

"The electrical cord is the one tether that has yet to be cut for most mobile users. Today's early wireless charging systems mostly use inductive charging technologies that require direct contact between the charger and the device, but research is well underway on systems that will eventually transmit power wirelessly over long distances."

It doesn't require much imagination to dream up applications for this sort of thing: you're already seeing some research and development related to electric vehicle charging, as one example. Consumer electronics gadgets -- especially mobile phones -- are also prime candidates. The delivery methods for wireless charging include everything from induction technologies, magnetic resonance, microwaves and even lasers. You might also imagination collecting power from a much more distributed "grid" than in the past. What's to keep you from having a solar or wind generation source, for example, that keeps your gadgets entirely off grid.

One start-up to follow is WiTricity, which just signed a technology collaboration deal with Toyota Motor Co. last week that could result wireless electric vehicle charging stations. Other companies working on the wireless charging challenge include Powercast, which is focused on energy harvesting; eCoupled, which is focused on inductive methods; and PowerBeam, which is using optical technologies for long-distance transmission. The Wireless Power Consortium is also likely to be a force in steering the future agenda for these technologies.

Topic: Wi-Fi

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  • Mr. Tesla have done this way back

    • RE: Cutting the (power) cord

      @cym104 That was exactly my thought. Remember all of the trouble it caused for the horses (their shoes acted like antennas and they got shocked with every step.) I have a hard time believing that this much energy could be put into the ether without some nasty consequences, like cancer, damaging other devices, or unexpected electric shocks.
    • RE: Cutting the (power) cord


      Plus, Tesla is all but unknown here in the US... Despite being a historical figure elsewhere.
  • I am all for this,

    but I am curious to what kind of charging speeds we can expect. For the most part, it doesn't matter too much, but I am curious to see how this technology compares to conventional charging methods.
  • RE: Cutting the (power) cord

    Good God! "Green Tech" calling for horribly inefficient power delivery systems for "convenience".
    • Abracadabra

      @wkulecz Now now, don't let physics get in the way of the Unicorns. If we can transmit information wirelessly, transmitting clean energy vast distances without wires is only a matter of you geeks getting on the stick.

      So get on it.
      Robert Hahn
    • Agreed! Now if we can just transmit directly from the windmill...

  • Wireless energy transfer

    That is already being done regularly by the vast majority of the people in modern societies. It is called a microwave oven. Trouble is, you do not want to be inside it.

    Transferring (relatively) large amounts of energy via wireless means (over a distance too long for a cord) without "cooking" life around it, may be an insurmountable challenge, unless we all want to die from cancer.
    • RE: Cutting the (power) cord

      My immediate thought was that people who don't like cell phone radiation are going to love hating this!
    • RE: Cutting the (power) cord


      Or you could look up the difference between ionising and non-ionising radiation.
      • Did you just learn some new terminology?

        @tonymcs@... <br><br>Since you brought it up:<br><br>"Non-ionizing radiation can produce non-mutagenic effects such as inciting thermal energy in biological tissue that can lead to burns." - Wikipedia.<br><br>I probably do not need to quote any affects if ionizing radiation.<br><br>And your point was?<br><br>Edit: And just to spell it out in sufficient detail for you have at least a chance at comprehension, the "cooking" reference was to non-ionizing and the "cancer" to ionizing. Which one would you prefer for your devices?
    • Oops

      @Economister Yes, there is a fine line between what the military calls a "directed energy weapon" and a wireless power transmitter that gets bumped by a suitcase and is aiming in the wrong direction.
      Robert Hahn
    • RE: Cutting the (power) cord


      Two words: Magnetic resonance.
      Not a radiative technology and thus far magnetic fields haven't been shown to do damage to biological organisms. I'm pretty sure if there was going to be any danger with magnetic fields, the MRI would have shown it long ago.

      So yeah, I'd like my wireless power transfer with neither burns nor cancer.
  • RE: Cutting the (power) cord


    Microwave radiation doesn't generally cause cancer, but the heat generated can kill delicate tissues, especially eye and nerve tissues, measured in terms of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). I remember a bit of it from getting trained on safety procedures for industrial microwave transmitters and waveguides. The training film was not especially pleasant to watch ...
    terry flores
    • I am not saying ....

      @terry flores

      it can NEVER happen, I just have trouble seeing significant amounts of energy being transmitted to wireless devices in the consumer space. How do you prevent it from going places you do not want it to go without being close enough so that you could just plug it in anyway and eliminate the risk?
    • RE: Cutting the (power) cord

      @terry flores - remember, we cook with microwaves today because early radar researchers discovered that birds who flew into the path of early radar transmitters cooked while in flight.

      Not sure I'd be comfortable accidentally walking into a beam of energy that's charging my car to find, somewhat agonizingly, that my legs have cooked!
      • Quick and easy dinner?


  • Apple will have inductive charging first

    This changes everything. Again. Genius.
  • I don't think so

    Having all that static electricity in the air can't possibly be a good thing. It wasn't a good idea when Tesla first proposed it in the 19th century. It's not a good idea now.
    John L. Ries
  • RE: Cutting the (power) cord

    Forbidden Planet here we come!