Six Ways Wireless Power Can Change the World

<p>Plugging in a smartphone or laptop may soon seem as quaint as hitching horses to a carriage. Wireless power technology holds the promise of eliminating the messy tangles of power cords and allowing almost any device to begin charging without first plugging in.</p> <p>Ordinary consumers can already buy commercial wireless charging pads that recharge mobile devices sitting on top of them. But researchers have already begun tinkering with far more ambitious schemes to extend the wireless power ranges from centimeters to encompass entire rooms of devices.</p> <p>Better wireless charging means more than just making life convenient for ordinary consumers it could eventually lead to life-saving functions for modern medicine and the U.S. military. Take a look at some of the new possibilities for the technology in the following countdown.</p>

Recharging your smartphone

<p>Wireless charging already exists to make life easier for mobile device owners charge pads can eliminate power cords for smartphones and other gadgets. The pads use <a href="">inductive charging</a> to magnetically transfer electricity to a special case or attachment for mobile devices, so that gadget users simply have to place their device on top of a pad.</p> <p>Newer mobile devices such as <a href="">Nokia's Lumia 920</a> even have built-in wireless charging capability. The Nokia smartphone uses the <a href="">Qi wireless power standard</a> developed by the Wireless Power Consortium a worldwide collaboration between U.S., Asian and European companies that aims to set the global standard for wireless charging.</p>

Keeping artificial hearts going

<p>Most humans walking around with artificial hearts have power cords poking through their skin to connect with batteries worn outside their bodies. Wireless power could make life much more pleasant by allowing such heart patients to take a bath or even go for a swim without worries.</p> <p>Researchers have begun experimenting with wireless systems that could beam power from a vest's transmitter coil to another coil implanted beneath the patient's skin. The diameter of the coil corresponds to its range, so that a four-inch transmitter could beam energy over a distance of four inches.</p> <p>Artificial heart users could even get rid of the vest while exercising or sleeping by putting wireless power transmitters in strategic locations around the house.</p>

Wireless power for electric cars

<p>Electric car drivers must still plug in their vehicles at charging stations like any gasoline vehicle filling up the fuel tank, but a company called WiTricity hopes to make the process wireless. Its joint project with Mitsubishi Motors and IHI Corporation has already succeeded in delivering wireless power over a distance of almost 8 inches (20 cm) with an efficiency rate of more than 90 percent.</p> <p>That means electric car owners could simply park their cars above a convenient charging pad and go about their business. When they return, their car would be charged and ready to take them to their next destination all without bothering to plug in ever again.</p>

Powering tiny medical implants

<p>Tiny medical devices can give physicians a peek inside the human body or dispense drugs from small capsules at the right time of day. But such technology will need wireless power to keep running despite their miniscule power requirements.</p> <p>One patented system under development uses wireless charging to send power over distances of up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) regardless of the muscle, organs or bone standing in the way. Just as importantly, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems in Germany say the technology's magnetic field does not heat up human tissue.</p>

Taking wireless power into battle

<p>U.S. soldiers and Marines go into battle carrying more gadgets and batteries than ever before. The last thing they want to worry about is detangling a mess of power cords before going into battle a good enough reason for the U.S. Army to invest in wireless power.</p> <p>The U.S. Army's vision for wireless power would put charging stations inside an armored infantry carrier so that it could "trickle charge" nearby military gadgets at distances of two feet. Such distances go a step beyond what today's commercial charging pads can do with contact charging, but may prove necessary if the U.S. military wants practical charging stations in all its vehicles, bases and aircraft.</p>

Wireless power everywhere

<p>Nikola Tesla once dreamed of sending wireless power around the world as a 19th century inventor nicknamed <a href="">"wizard" for his electricity demonstrations</a>. Such ambitions remain unrealized, but researchers have begun closing in on the possibility of having wireless power everywhere inside homes and businesses.</p> <p>MIT startup WiTricity has nurtured such a plan for years. The company envisions charging tomorrow's laptops, smartphones and even household robots with coil transmitters that can reach across entire rooms. A truly wireless power infrastructure could not only cut the power cords, but also eliminate the need for batteries in many gadgets.</p> <p>That future remains some years or decades down the line. But the technology is real, and it has already begun trickling into today's world.</p>

Six Ways Wireless Power Can Change the World