Everyone is used to wirelessly exchanging data , but Intel is well on its way to allowing people to wireless exchange electricity.
There have been "wireless" chargers around for a few years, and while these fit the literal description because they don't use wires, they still require the device being charged to be physically in contact with some kind of charging apparatus.
This is not true of the method being employed by Intel researchers. At its developer forum today, the company demonstrated the ability to transmit 60 watts of power through the air a distance of two or three feet, according to The New York Times.
While this might not sound overly impressive, two or three feet is the roughly length of most power cables. The system being worked on by researchers could make these cables unnecessary, potentially leading to a future in which smartphones, laptops, MP3 players, and other portable electronics can be charged without ever being plugged in.
Building on MIT's Breakthrough
Last year, researchers at MIT announced a breakthrough in wireless charging. Their system -- which they dubbed "WiTricity" -- uses magnetically coupled resonant objects.
These takes advantage of a scientific principle: two objects of the same resonant frequency tend to exchange energy efficiently, while interacting weakly with extraneous off-resonant objects.
One of these objects is hooked up to a power source and fills the space around it with a magnetic field. The second object resonates with this field, and so receives power.
Smaller and More Efficient
When this breakthrough was first announced, there were some significant downsides. The antennas required were about 6 feet across and not very efficient. Since that time, researchers both at MIT and Intel have made significant progress.
The setup Intel demonstrated today is able to power a 60 watt bulb with antennas that are just 2 feet across, and with only 25% of the power being lost.
Still, more progress will need to be made before WiTricity will be powering mobile devices anywhere outside of a lab.
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