General Question

gamefu91's avatar

What do you think about the idea of wireless transmission of electricity?

Asked by gamefu91 (585 points ) December 21st, 2010

Could it be possible/feasible ? How ?
Even if you have not been a science student, any guesses how it can be done?
Do you think power loss in this could be more than ordinary transmission through wires?
Where could it be applicable?

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18 Answers

Eggie's avatar

I dont know how it would be done but it would definitely break the barriers of our scientific knowledge and would create new technology that would fit our existing future. I think it would be feasible.

mrlaconic's avatar

It is already possible, Intel has done it they can send electricity to a light bulb wireless.

There are some videos at the bottom worth watching.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

When we figure it out, then we can probably also harness the power from the average 100 lightning strikes occurring around the planet every second of every day and give up our generation plants, too.

bpeoples's avatar

It’s already being done—look at http://www.powermat.com/

It’s a pretty big efficiency loss.

If you’re looking at long-range power transmission—we can do it (microwave transmission), but it’s too inefficient to be useful for most things.

Anyways, the two easy ways to do it are induction—basically the way a transformer works, but with an “air core”. The other is microwave transmission. In general, you can get the microwave power to be diffuse enough that unless the beam is hitting your reciever, it’s not cooking anything in the middle.

Also look at this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-based_solar_power

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

This is precisely what happens with a radio signal. The only difference is the amount of power involved.

Most technologies that run along these lines use microwaves because they can be focused in a tight beam, like a laser. Some futuristic ideas for harnessing solar power involve orbiting power stations that beam their energy back to Earth by microwaves. I don’t know if you could ever make the technology safe. I used to work with a guy who helped set up the DEW line back in the 1950s. That system employed high-powered radar to look for Soviet missiles. The side lobes from the dishes were quite dangerous, and occasionally some hapless airman would get fried by them.

Summum's avatar

Wait until we start to harness the power of gravitation and use it in a positive venture.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@Summum , this is a gravity power station.

cazzie's avatar

I was just going to write that it already exists, but @mrlaconic beat me to it.

And, @IchtheosaurusRex LOL! I’m all for hydro power. We have all the hydro power we need here in Norway, and wouldn’t need to build any more if we just upgraded the old stations, but people here are too fond of new shiny things and governments don’t think ‘upgraded’ sounds as good as ‘built new’ in their achievements they drag out at election time.

Electricity is interesting, though. It’s always been a matter of ‘acceptable loss’ over distance and the cost of the material carrying the power. ‘Air’ isn’t an efficient carrier of current. Copper isn’t even the most efficient metal conductor, but it’s efficiency, relative to cost made it the industry choice. If we were able to cool the lines to near absolute zero, then there are ceramics that would work (and are currently by NASA) very well. Developed from studies of superconductors. Superconductors, which when brought down to very low temperatures turn into superhighways of current—they conduct electricity without any resistance whatsoever.

Short distance is possible now, with a certain amount of wasted energy, but sending it like waves though the air, like radio? Nah.

Summum's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex

Not in the sense I am speaking about. When you talk about gravity power stations they are normally driven by the vortex.

mattbrowne's avatar

A great idea worth exploring.

RocketGuy's avatar

Think “Quiet Earth”:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089869/
(the most boring movie ever made)

ragingloli's avatar

Did Tesla not manage to do that a century ago?

cazzie's avatar

@ragingloli yes, he did! Found a good article now on wireless energy transfer…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_energy_transfer

gondwanalon's avatar

Nikola Tesla’s genuine pure genius made the brilliant Alexander Bell look like a bungling boob. Tesla thought that it is possible to broadcast power over wide areas and even power the entire Earth at a low cost.

BhacSsylan's avatar

@ragingloli He thought up the idea, but I’m pretty sure he never managed to actually create a wireless power station, and had he done it would have run into the problems brought up above, which is major energy loss over distance (i believe it’s a 1/r^4 loss? possibly more). He did wirelessly light lamps, but over short distances, and I have no idea of the efficiency of such tricks. Probably not good.

Oh, and looking at that article @cazzie, he apparently had a different idea for his actual power relay system, but it involves sending energy via conduction, which seems… odd. And/or dangerous. I’ll leave this to an actual physicist to explain (should one be around) but it doesn’t look like all that viable a theory.

don’t get me wrong, though, Tesla was still brilliant. A bit funny in the head, but then again most geniuses are. Thin line and all that

PhiNotPi's avatar

I read an article talking about this. It sounds like the technology is not too far off, but I think the the main concern is the power to safety trade-off. The most efficient/powerful method is to have infrared lasers to transfer energy directly from place to place. However, you can imagine the safety concerns. I’m not talking about laser pointers, I’m talking about something hundreds of times more powerful. The safest option, however, has very low efficiency.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Let’s see…For something nearby, I can use a copper wire that costs a $1.00 and reaches virtually 99% efficiency of energy transferred. Or I can set up an inductive transmission coil costing $30, a receiving coil for $5, and get 40% efficiency, max. Hmmm… let me think…. Which should I choose?
For long distances, I can do it optically or with high frequency RF like microwave towers today.

HungryGuy's avatar

Possible, but at present not very practical. Due to the inverse square law, available power at the receiver drops off exponentially the farther away it is from the transmitter. I see it being a convenient way to keep cell phones and such charged simply by setting the phone on the same tabletop as the charger, but highly impractical to have a wireless power transmitter in your home to deliver power to all your electrical devices.

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