Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Watts by Air

Science News has a great piece about how an MIT team successfully transmitted electricity over the airwaves ... something people have been puzzling over since Nikola Tesla began exploring the problem early in the 20th century.

From the piece:

    "What they've done is take some very basic physics concepts [and] brought these ingredients together. It's the synthesis which is the novel thing," says [John] Pendry [, a physicist at Imperial College in London].

    Shanhui Fan, a physicist at Stanford University, says that the use of magnetic resonance as a means of transferring energy is a completely new concept, and "very clever." Although it's a simple principle, nobody seems to have thought of it before, he says. "Many great things look simple from hindsight."

    [MIT prof Marin] Soljacic and his colleagues have applied for two patents, and they have branded their idea with the name WiTricity to suggest an electrical-power version of Wi-Fi wireless-Internet technology.

    But if the physics is simple, why didn't anyone think of it sooner? Soljacic suggests that before the spread of cell phones and laptops, there was little need for a wirefree power source. In fact, Soljacic admits that what got him thinking hard about wireless power was the frustration of being awakened at night by a beeping cell phone that needed to be recharged.

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