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Nicole Ackerman | SLAC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

WiTricity: A revolution from physics?

I was quite excited when the development of “witricity” was announced – the ability to transmit power without wires. It’s amazing in its simplicity – it doesn’t require carbon nanotubes or rare elements – just electromagnetic fields and a bit of resonance. It works in a similar way to a radio transmitter and receiver – something creates an electromagnetic field with certain properties, and another device detects those fields. A normal transformer – the thing that converts 120 Volts AC into something your laptop can use – even uses a similar principle, but the distance is really small and the field is passed through iron.


Diagram shows how magnetic fields transmit power, even around obstacles (from WiTricity Corportation)

Diagram shows how magnetic fields transmit power, even around obstacles (from WiTricity Corportation)

I was re-excited when I read an article in BBC news saying that the WiTricity Corporation has demonstrated a system (ie, something destined for consumers!) at the TED conference. I remember making a guess of how long it would take for the product to hit markets – I don’t remember what the exact timescale was predicted to be, but it certainly looks fairly soon!

I will admit to not having followed the development over the past few years, so I had feared that the WiTricity Corporation was somehow (unfairly?) profiting from the hard work of the MIT physicists who developed it. I am quite happy to see that the management team seems to be made up of the original scientists (as well as a few others) and that there is a Scientific Advisory Board of MIT Professors who worked on the development as well. Additionally, Prof. Soljačić received the MacArthur Fellowship (aka Genius Grant) for the work. So not only did a few physicists create an invention that may revolutionize consumer technology, but they received scientific recognition, and stand to actually receive the financial windfall as well! I think this represents the luckiest few graduate students since Larry Page and Sergey Brin!

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