Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wireless Electricity

Can you imagine a world where all of your electronics are fully functional without any cords or batteries? Apparently this world may not be too far away. WiTricity Corp. is a company that was created to commercialize the new technology of wireless electricity that was developed at MIT by a group of physicists.  Marin Soljačić and the rest of his team developed this new version of wireless energy transfer. The basics of how it works is that coils are attached to both the power source and the object to be powered. The electricity from the power source resonates at a particular frequency that matches the resonance of the object that needs the electricity. Through this process, the magnetic fields of each combine to create one where the power can travel from the source to the object. Put simply, the electricity is able to be transported magnetically to the object.

This concept brings up a bit of controversy among professionals. While overall, the idea of wireless electricity has been well-received by other professionals in the field, some are concerned about its safety. Duane Bucheger is one such professional who is not against the development of wireless electricity technology, but is worried about the possible risk of cancer that can come from using too strong of a magnetic field. WiTricity claims that, at least at this point, the magnetic fields being used are not at all dangerous.

This innovative creation would be extremely convenient. Imagine never having to plug your phone in to charge it. Or hanging a TV wherever you want without having a cord sticking out or needing an extension cord to reach an outlet. Or even a medical patient with a device helping to keep him alive that never needed to be replaced. The uses for wireless electricity contain infinite possibilities, not to mention the environmental benefits. Use of batteries would decrease enough to make a significant positive impact on the environment.

One of the interesting things about this technological advancement is the way it was developed. Frequently, on the WiTricity website and in articles about the technology, the developers are referred to as "Marin Soljačić and a team of physicists" which makes me wonder why he is the one mentioned by name, who the other developers are, and what their roles were. It seems that Soljačić is most prominently named because he began developing the technology after being woken up by his wife's cell phone when it was beeping because of a low battery and having a desire to charge it wirelessly. Andre Kurs, Aristeidis Karalis, John D. Joannopoulos, and Peter Fisher appear to be the other members of the team.

As Brian Uzzi and Jarrett Spiro suggest, creation and innovation can be significantly strengthened when a group works together as a cohesive unit. While the details of how this particular group of MIT physicists collaborated to develop their technology are difficult to find, what is known is that they were all colleagues at MIT together working in similar fields. Most of the team members were involved in the areas of physics and engineering. Because of this, they could have shared classes, professors, and friends. Their similarities could have made them an even stronger group and helped them to come up with such strong and creative ideas. If this powerful group continues to work together, I can only imagine what they will come up with next.

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