We Will Beam Electricity Directly Into Your Brain — No Wires Needed

Illustration for article titled We Will Beam Electricity Directly Into Your Brain — No Wires Needed

If you're sick of your laptop and mobile running out of power, fret no more. Researchers have invented a system of "wireless electricity" that powers up your devices without having to plug them in. Yesterday the CTO of Intel, Justin Rattner, wowed a crowd of journalists with the prototype for this wireless electricity system. Using an emitter device, Rattner beamed power to a lamp on stage, powering up the bulb from a distance. Sounds convenient, but many questions remain. Is it safe to wander through an environment bathed in electricity that's powering up your devices? Rattner reassured the audience that it would be perfectly safe. According to Yahoo! News:

"It turns out the human body is not affected by magnetic fields; it is affected by electric fields. So what we are doing is transmitting energy using the magnetic field not the electric field." Examples of potential applications include airports, offices or other buildings that could be rigged to supply power to laptops, mobile telephones or other devices toted into them . . . "Initially it eliminates chargers and eventually it eliminates batteries all together," analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group said of Intel's wireless power system. "That is potentially a world changing event. This is the closest we've had to something being commercially available in this class." Previous wireless power systems consisted basically of firing lightning bolts from sending to receiving units.

Wait, what? OK first of all, I totally want my lightning bold sender/receiver. But how does this shit really work? Thankfully, John Markoff of the New York Times has the story:

The research project, which is being led by Joshua R. Smith, an Intel researcher at a company laboratory in Seattle, builds on the work of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Marin Soljacic, who pioneered the idea of wirelessly transmitting power using resonant magnetic fields. The MIT group refers to the idea as WiTricity, a play on wireless and electricity. Both the M.I.T. group and the Intel researchers are exploring a phenomenon known as "resonant induction," making it possible to transmit power several feet without wires. Induction is already used to recharge electric toothbrushes, but that approach is limited by the need for the toothbrush to be placed in the base station.


Currently, Intel can transmit 60 watts for 2-3 feet. I still think the lightning option might be better. Especially when it's being used to charge up my brain implant. Intel Cuts Electric Cords [Yahoo! News] Intel Moves to Free Gadgets of their Cords [NY Times]

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And what about RF transmissions? Tesla's world of cities powered wirelessly by ginormous sparking towers is also the world where we still have to communicate by hand-carried letter, because there's too much interference to carry electrical signal by radio or wire.

The air is for signals. That's the way it should be. There's very good reasons to reserve transmission for just enough power to discriminate signal, instead of the enormous amount of power necessary to do work.