Eric Giler at TEDGlobal 2009: Running notes on Session 9

Posted by: Matthew Trost


Running notes from TEDGlobal 2009, Session 9.

Eric Giler is working on bringing wireless transmission of electric power to a commercial scale.

Early visions of wireless power were first conceived by Nikola Tesla about 100 years ago. He, in fact, didn’t know why anyone would want to transfer power using wires. But we love electricity so much that we’ve dragged hundreds of millions of miles of copper wiring all over the earth. It’s a huge drain on resources to create the infrastructure. In fact, in contemporary parlance, Eric Giler says “wires suck.” (So do batteries, he says.)

Enter wireless electricity: MIT physicists recently invented technology that can light a 60-watt light bulb at several meters. The concept of “resonant energy transfer” — where the same principles used in electrical transformers are used to send electricity over a long distance — was created when a professor was awoken three nights in the row by a cell phone whose battery was dying. He wondered “Why can’t all this electricity in the walls just come out and power my phone?”

“WiTricity” works using the principle of inductance, where an electric charge is stored in the form of a magnetic field in a coil of a conductor. Two such coils, resonating at the same frequency, can exchange charge across space. This is not radiative power transfer — since it uses only magnetic fields. The technology also limits power transfer to other objects. It’s completely safe and, Giler assures us, won’t to the sort of thing we heard about Rebecca Saxe’s talk (where a magnetic burst interferes with the brain’s processing).

Giler sees unlimited applications for WiTricity – powering electric cars (who, he asks, really wants to have to plug in a car?), appliances of all sorts, industrial manufacturing equipment … even an electrically heated dog bowl. (A business person recently approached Giler to ask him if wireless electricity could do such a thing.)

Giler then does a live, on-stage demo of his system. With a a rectangular conducting frame less than a meter wide mounted on a person-sized stand, and a base transmission unit plugged into a normal power strip, he powers on a regular, commercially available TV screen.

People often ask Giler, “But how small can you make this system?” Taking the example of a cell phone battery running out of charge, he takes a G1 phone and holds it near the transmitting coil — and the phone turns on automatically. He then does the same with an iPhone — and, sure enough, the green “battery charging” symbol appears on the screen.

Photo: Eric Giler at TEDGlobal 2009, Session 9: “Revealing energy,” July 23, 2009, in Oxford, UK. Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson

Comments (4)

  • starlight enterprise commented on Sep 1 2009

    Just one question.

    The how does the device get the energy it needs to make a magnetic field? does it come from batteries, power lines, the sun?

    • Ian Flatman commented on Oct 4 2009

      The generator of the pulse needs to be attached to a source of power. This was demonstrated by plugging it into the mains, however given time and development there should be no reason for it not to be able to be run off of solar panels.

      The batteries thing think you missed to point, was developed as an alternate to batteries. The only battery requierd would be the one in the device (phone, TV, any electronic device) which this invention would then charge

  • ILIE CIOBANU commented on Jul 23 2009

    Most of Tesla’s innovative work has been hidden from the public libraries as his work was classified to be very advanced for the twentieth century. The wireless technology shown here today is based on Tesla’s concepts, that have been around for more than 100 years. Only recently some of the Tesla’s inventions have been accepted by the current scientists. In Tesla’s inventions we see pure passion for electrical energy and devotion to share with the rest of the world via wireless technology. If anyone can have access to the electrical energy anywhere in the world, the consequences would create big damages for the businesses that we all depend on today’s energy Natural Resources, who has control of the energy bill. The conclusion is, some of Telsa’s inventions such as (ZERO POINT ENERGY) have been seen more as a threat to those interested in money making rather than caring for the future’s generation of human kind or Global Warming that we know.

    • Ian Flatman commented on Oct 4 2009

      Unfortunatly NO MATTER WHAT there would always be a bill for a pruduct. This is because there are other products that have bills like food and shelter. Not only that but a cretain ammount of social stature is associated with wealth.

      There are two possible solutions that jump to mind about avoiding payment. One is negating the importance of wealth. A million dollars to our great great great grandparents would have been enough to significantly shape a country, now to us it would be able to aquire 5 houses at most. The answer to negating wealth is simple make everyone immortal.

      The other way to avoid paying the bill is to stop using electricity. How desperatly do you need to go on the internet and shout conspiricy?