The wireless energy revolution

The typical bird’s nest of cables below the desk or the lack of power outlets for charging our devices can be a source of frustration and has many of us dreaming of a wireless energy future. But what could we realistically expect in terms of development in non-contact energy distribution?

The slow wireless energy revolution

Here in the One Beyond blog we often like to take a sneak peek into the future and look at what potential scenarios might look like for business and lifestyle in years to come. And when it comes to wireless energy we have indeed seen some innovation, but there is still a general view in the technology community that we are only scratching the surface of the tremendous possibilities of advanced non-contact energy transfer.

Phone charging pads

Wireless charging pads for mobile phones is something that most of us will have come across, and it is often the first thing that springs to mind when we discuss cable-free power transfer. This gadget is of course a clever invention and one that helps simplify the charging process in some ways, but it is in itself not a major improvement over the use of cables; the phone still needs to be placed on the pad, which in turn needs to be plugged into a power socket.

Wi-fi style power distribution

One approach to wireless power is that it should be distributed via local power hubs in much the same way that we distribute wi-fi internet connections. This would mean that a single source of power could transmit energy to multiple devices, even as they move around, without cables or other physical connectors. The technology is safe for humans and animals, as it is based on a low-power signal that does not pass through organic matter. This idea has been tested and proven to be cost-effective, but is yet to be rolled out on any significant scale.

A wireless society

Nikola Tesla had a vision of long-distance power distribution when he wrote in 1904 “it is possible to transmit power, in unlimited amounts, to any terrestrial distance and almost without loss.” This didn’t happen in his lifetime, but we are many steps closer to realising his vision today as companies like WiTricity are pioneering power solutions for infrastructure and vehicles using magnetic resonance technology.

However, as with most aspects of electric transport, this innovation comes with practical limitations and requires large investments to function fully – so we may still need to wait a couple of decades to see major strides in large scale wireless charging.

Tapping into wireless energy from space

Another level of groundbreaking wireless discoveries is taking place when it comes to sourcing raw energy and transmitting it wirelessly – from space. It may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but the successful transfer of energy through the air from up to 55 metres away has got the scientific world excited about how this technology can potentially be developed for harvesting unlimited power from solar satellites at around 36,000 km from the surface of the Earth.

If this was to be achieved, it’s fair to say that it would disrupt the entire energy industry. The ability to bring electricity to any part of the planet could revolutionise the developing world and benefit entire continents.

The future is not quite here

Just like Nikola Tesla did not live to see many of his visions come true, today’s scientists may need to place their trust in the next generation for making wireless energy and space power transmission a reality.

The concept of wireless energy may get our imagination going, but there is still a huge amount of regulatory, security and financial barriers to overcome before we can truly become free of the restraints of cables and power sockets!