Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Singularity is Near

A future with no power cords! Amazing stuff in store for us in the next few decades. It was only ten years ago that I got my first email address and using a CD player and cassette tapes. Now I've got a 20GB iPod that holds all the music I could ever need (plus a couple miscellaneous files) and a laptop 20x more productive than that first Compaq I had. Now, check out what these kids are up to at MIT. The concept is WiTricity; "based on using coupled resonant objects. Two resonant objects of the same resonant frequency tend to exchange energy efficiently, while interacting weakly with extraneous off-resonant objects. A child on a swing is a good example of this. A swing is a type of mechanical resonance, so only when the child pumps her legs at the natural frequency of the swing is she able to impart substantial energy."
The MIT team explored a system of two electromagnetic resonators coupled mostly through their magnetic fields; they were able to identify the strongly coupled regime in this system, even when the distance between them was several times larger than the sizes of the resonant objects. This way, efficient power transfer was enabled. Magnetic coupling is particularly suitable for everyday applications because most common materials interact only very weakly with magnetic fields, so interactions with extraneous environmental objects are suppressed even further ("important for safety considerations”).
WiTricity is rooted in such well-known laws of physics that it makes one wonder why no one thought of it before. “In the past, there was no great demand for such a system, so people did not have a strong motivation to look into it...Over the past several years, portable electronic devices, such as laptops, cell phones, iPods and even household robots have become widespread, all of which require batteries that need to be recharged often...Hopefully, we will be getting rid of some more wires, and also batteries, soon."
The Singularity is Near.

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