I have often pondered exactly how Wi-Fi works. How do we really grab all this great content out of thin air? (Not being a scientist, I just lumped it in with other airborne magic like FM radio and TV signals.) And I’ve also wondered why we don’t have wireless electricity, lightning and batteries aside. If we can download videos from the ether, why not electricity?
So I snapped to attention when I ran across an article on wireless power on Technology Review the other day. Imagine how cool it would be to have a truly wireless home network, one in which your routers and your PCs could someday exist without need for an AC plug?
The Technology Review article, which names 10 emerging technologies for 2008, cites the work of MIT physics professor Marin Solja?i? as one of the year’s most transformative technologies. A power-depleted cell phone, bleating in the night for a battery recharge, was the catalyst for Solja?i?’s project in wireless power and magnetic resonance. According to the article:
Solja?i? found magnetic resonance a promising means of electricity transfer because magnetic fields travel freely through air yet have little effect on the environment or, at the appropriate frequencies, on living beings. Working with MIT physics professors John Joannopoulos and Peter Fisher and three students, he devised a simple setup that wirelessly powered a 60-watt light bulb.
Sure, the setup is unattractive and unwieldy—it requires 23-inch cooper coils—and there are sure to be health concerns. But what an awesome idea. Given the snake-nest of cables and power cords behind and beside my desktop computer and router, the idea of wireless power seems like a miracle. Which is pretty much defines most any life-changing technology.