Monday, August 25, 2008

Intel works on wireless laptop battery recharging

The groundwork may have been laid by Nikola Tesla for wireless transmission of electricity, but Intel is putting it to good use through a new effort to charge a laptop in much the same manner.

At the Intel Developer's Forum in San Francisco this week, a demonstration was shown where researchers were able to power a 60 watt light bulb from an energy source that was three feet away. About 75% of the power from the source was retained.

Researchers based their tests on work done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last year. In the simplest terms, the transmission of electricity occurs through the use of two resonant objects of the same frequency. This allows the transmitted power to react strongest with those objects.

They were able to transmit the power at a distance of seven feet, although apparently with less efficiency. Similar technologies, known as power induction, are already fairly widely used. A current example would be Philips' Sonicare electric toothbrushes, which don't have contacts but which draw their power charge through induction, just by sitting in contact with the base.

(More on MIT's system -- called WiTricity -- including a more complex explanation of how it works, can be found here.)

Intel's system is similar, though it uses two electric coils to transmit the power over a short, though measurable, distance. Any device operating on the same frequency would then be able to draw power from the source.

Conceivably, furniture manufacturers could embed these coils within tables. This way, charging a compatible device would be as easy as placing it on or near the table, for example.

Still, Intel's technology still appears to be years away from mass production. Some of the considerations to still be worked out include how to prevent the electromagnetic fields from interfering with other components within the devices, or anything else.

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