Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Next Little Thing 2010

Wireless electricity. Invisible speakers. A mind-reading headset. See what's coming in 2010.

1 of 8
BACKNEXT
Electricity without wires
Electricity without wires
Eric Giler, CEO of WiTricity, which uses low-level magnetic fields to transmit electricity around a room.

WiTricity
Cambridge, Mass.

Marin Soljačić couldn't sleep. The problem was his wife's Nokia cell phone. The tyrannical device beeped on the bedside table when it needed to be plugged in. It could not be disabled.

Instead of taking a hammer to the phone, Soljačić marveled at the fact that this device, and billions of others like it, was sitting a few feet away from all the electricity it could ever need. Why couldn't it receive power wirelessly, just as laptops get Wi-Fi?

A physics professor, Soljačić dug into the problem and learned that if you could get two magnetic fields to resonate -- to sing the same note, in effect -- they could transfer an electric current. With two large magnetic coils, he found a way to throw 60 watts across a room, powering a lightbulb. MIT, his employer, quickly patented the technology and encouraged Soljačićto start a company.

WiTricity's 15 employees are hard at work proving that Soljačić's magnetic coils can power almost any electrical device. Most of the company's potential customers have one major question: safety.

"There's a real perceptual problem," says CEO Eric Giler. "People think we're putting electricity in the air, and that's called lightning, and they know to stay away from that."

In fact, the coils turn electricity into magnetic fields, then back into electricity. Magnetic fields interact weakly with humans; as far as the fields are concerned, we are no different from air. Giler makes a point of standing between the coils whenever he demonstrates the technology.

At the Nikkei electronics conference in Tokyo in October, he was able to power a 1,000-watt klieg light from across the room -- a far cry from that 60-watt lightbulb in Soljačić's first experiment. "We're going up the power curve," he says. -Chris Taylor

NEXT: Breaking the sound barrier

Email | Print | Share  |  RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
LAST UPDATE: Nov 30 2009 | 6:37 PM ET
More Galleries
5 startups that are reimagining the world Bricks that grow from microorganisms, household garbage turned into art, three-wheeled bike-cars -- these startups are redefining urban living. More
Blue collar entrepreneurs These five entrepreneurs took their blue collar experience and used it to launch innovative businesses. More
7 lifehacks to eliminate your holiday hassle Whether curating the perfect gift or finding a pet-sitter, these startups offer time-saving services that might just seem like holiday magic. More
Sponsors