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Will 2016 be the year of wireless energy?

Wireless power has been a dream of mankind’s for decades, but the technology finally appears to be gaining some traction. Theoretically, numerous studies have shown that wireless power is possible through a variety of aerial transmission modalities. Yet the problem with wireless power has been getting the technology to work at a reasonable range. So far, commercial use of wireless power has been limited, but progress is being made. For instance, Samsung now has a commercially available wireless charger for its cell phones. With the charger, consumers do not need to plug their phone into the wall for it to charge.

Unfortunately though, consumers still have to place their phones onto wireless charging pads, meaning that there is a still a physical connection required to power the phones. Even wireless devices like Qi and PowerMat only work to wirelessly power from about an inch away; hardly the kind of freedom that would empower consumers to use devices in new ways. Given that limitation, the wireless charging for the phone is a gimmick or cool tech toy depending on your perspective, rather than a true game changer for mobile devices.

In 2007, MIT researchers demonstrated a way to wirelessly power a light bulb using power conducted via a magnetic field from a source a few feet away. The bulb did not have to be connected to the wall or physically touching a power source in order to get power. While this represents a more useful system than the one Samsung is currently fielding, the key again is the limited distance over which the power can be transmitted. Efforts are being made to commercialize the approach, but so far, there are no widely available applications for true wireless power.