Wireless electricity trialled at MIT

Commercial availability possible in 'a few years': researcher

The day may be coming when PCs, cellphones and many other devices will be run without a battery or electrical cord.

Recently, a research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that it had juiced up a 60-watt light bulb using “WiTricity”, the name it has given a wireless electricity source it is developing.

The team generated the WiTricity using two copper coils, one attached to a power source. The power coil emitted a field of magnetism to the unpowered coil, stimulating it to generate a current that powered the light bulb from seven feet away, says Andre Kurs, a graduate student in MIT’s physics department who worked on the project.

The team has been testing WiTricity options over the past year, he says.

The WiTricity generated by the coils powered the light bulb in a way similar to magnetic induction, which is used in power transformers so that one coil carries power to another, Kurs says.

Using an energy converter, any object near the WiTricity generating coils could be powered, says Kurs. He adds that the technology could, in the future, be used to replace cords and bulky batteries, which often contain toxic chemicals.

Kurs also contends that WiTricity is safer than electricity or batteries and will “run forever if you take care of it”.

Depending on how the coils are configured, a single WiTricity source could provide power for several laptops or dozens of cellphones, he says.

The team plans to expand the tests, with the goal of covering greater distances and generating more power.

“We’re working to make this efficient, so it could be competitive with rechargeable batteries. It could be commercially available in a few years,” Kurs says.

“We’re going to get to work on this and get some more exotic applications, possibly even for consumers. We’re cautiously optimistic.”

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