The Wireless Power Grid: More Than A 100 Years In The Making

Authored by Julieanne Geiger via,

If you can imagine a massive, horrifying beast with some 6 million miles of tentacles that costs up to $33 billion to feed and $5 trillion to replace, then you can imagine the U.S. electricity grid.

But it’s a beast that can possibly be vanquished, finally.

How? Magnetic induction and resonant coupling.

Imagine a future where you can charge your electric vehicles while in motion using a charging mechanism built into the road on which it drives. Where the electrical grid is no longer reliant on power lines, utility poles, or expensive transformers and underground cables. A future where power companies stop chopping down trees that threaten nearby power lines. 

This might sound like a sci-fi movie, but the future you just imagined is nearly here, in the form of magnetic inductive coupling and resonant coupling.

Magnetic induction, or magnetic inductive coupling, courtesy of Nikola Tesla, is already a mainstay in small-scale technology such as wireless cellphone charging and wireless speakers. Transformers also use this technology, which allows energy to be transferred from one coil to another, but the coils can be only centimeters apart—any further and it won’t work.

Resonant coupling works similarly to magnetic induction, but allows for a greater distance between the two coils.  

Naysayers abound, but magnetic induction and resonant coupling is not just possible on a large scale—it’s inevitable. And none too soon, as the requirements for distributing electric power continue to change with the gaining presence of renewable energy sources and increasing fears of grid security and unreliability.

It may seem like a mighty big leap to go from wireless cellphone charging to a wireless power grid, but mankind has been known to make some huge jumps, courtesy of unconventional blue-sky thinkers, MIT grads, and deep-pocketed corporations.

To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that some of the most creative tech ideas have come from our creative visionaries in Hollywood. They’ve generated some spectacular ideas that have forever changed the world. Hollywood has already gone where no man has gone before, and the rest of the world has followed.

Fifty-one years ago, when “Star Trek” burst onto the television scene, minds were blown with the then-silly notion of a handheld computer. At the time, it seemed rather farfetched; the personal computer hadn’t been invented yet, let alone laptops and tablets. But here we are, with iPods and tablets and Chromebooks and smart watches. The sci-fi wonder was several iterations ahead of reality, and now the rest of the world has arrived, albeit lagging by a few decades.

Star Trek also thought up the universal translator, which was probably introduced solely to explain why everyone on the show spoke English even though they were supposed to be from different planets. Regardless of the motive behind this invention, that universal translator—then only a finished product idea that lacked even a hint of how to make it happen—is finally here. We have had Google Translate (granted, it’s not perfect) for quite some time now, but just last month Google announced its Pixel Buds, which can translate 40 languages in real time.  

Hollywood’s thought contributions don’t end there. Next on the list is the holodeck. While it first appeared in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, it was actually thought up in the original series along with all the other cool gizmos, but was never shown on screen. If you’re under the age of 35 and have no idea what a holodeck is, just ask Siri, Bixby, or Alexa (yeah, the talking computer was a Star Trek invention, too) and she’ll explain, perhaps by showing you today’s version of the holodeck: virtual reality goggles.

Other Star Trek high-tech gadgetry also makes the list of up-and-coming reality, and include the communicator badge, which is currently in prototype phase, and the tractor beam, which is in development. And don’t tell your kids just yet, but even the hypospray is here.

And it’s not just Star Trek. Twenty years its junior, the “Back to the Future” franchise conceptualized even more things that were nonexistent then, but real things now.  It thought up drones, hands-free gaming, mobile payment technology, hoverboards, biometric devices, wearable technology, video calling, and probably the most relevant for our readers, the DeLorean—a car that can run on garbage and duals as a time machine.

Well, we might not have a car that can run on actual garbage, but eco-friendly hydrogen-powered cars are indeed here. As for the rest of the tech mentioned above…. yeah, we’ve got that. As for the time machine, that’s probably a bit further out.

The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.  - Nikola Tesla

It’s not just Hollywood scriptwriters who serve as the artistic muse for MIT’s high-tech hotshots. Wireless electricity was the brainchild of Nikola Tesla, who as early as the 1890s had grand ideas of a global wireless power grid—and some university students now think they’re well on their way to making his vision a reality.

A decade ago, MIT researchers proved that it was indeed possible to wirelessly power a light bulb more than two meters away­, and while it’s not exactly the finished product that Nikola Tesla had in mind, he would have been proud; it was the first such feat and a milestone for wireless electricity.

More progress continues to be made. This year, senior study author and professor of electrical engineering Shanhui Fan said in a June interview for Stanford News that they have developed a way to wirelessly charge moving objects—a clear precursor to wirelessly charging not just stationary objects but electric vehicles while in motion. The technology could make alleviate the concerns that currently exist in the automobile marketplace about how far an electric car can travel without a charge—a major hurdle to making EVs more prevalent on the road.

“We still need to significantly increase the amount of electricity being transferred to charge electric cars, but we may not need to push the distance too much more,” Fan said, adding that his hope is that “you’ll be able to charge your electric car while you’re driving down the highway. A coil in the bottom of the vehicle could receive electricity from a series of coils connected to an electric current embedded in the road.”

And this induction system, the “electric road of the future” if you will, is already being tested in France. Carmakers have yet to incorporate into their vehicles the necessary technology that would allow them to top up by pads under the road surfaces, but this technology is already being tried out in a test track near Paris. Full-scale introduction of this tech is reportedly ten years out.

 “Maybe 10 years is a good timescale for this technology,” Virginie Maillard, a senior Renault EV engineer said in an interview with Autocar Magazine. “We have to design cars and the road network to accept it.”

Back in 2012, Pike Research acknowledged the progress that had been made, but stated that the technology to replace existing utility poles with wireless power was decades away. But today’s growing fears about grid security and grid reliability may speed along its progression.

United States President Donald Trump designated November 2017 as Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month. The Department of Energy approved two transmission projects this year, with the last one gaining approval yesterday: The $1.6 billion Northern Pass Transmission Line project will bring hydropower from America’s northern neighbor, Quebec, by tying the American grid to Canada’s and lowering the carbon footprint in the region.

The regulatory approval of two major transmission projects is a clear sign that the new administration is working to improve the nation’s infrastructure and streamline the federal permitting process, which may mean less regulatory hurdles for grid projects going forward—projects like a wireless grid, for instance.

A truly wireless grid isn’t something we’re likely to see tomorrow, but it’s likely to be a reality someday in the fairly near future, and the power industry from power companies to transformer and power line manufacturers—and everything in between­—should at least consider that future.

If Star Trek and other sci-fi ideas are any indicator, we may very well see the beast defeated in our lifetime.


MozartIII Mon, 11/20/2017 - 20:54 Permalink

Duh! Tesla did this in New York and was stoped. They couldn't figure out how to make money off of it, free energy. His equipment was seized by the government.Gues they figured out how to screw us for it now!

skbull44 MozartIII Mon, 11/20/2017 - 20:56 Permalink

I’m always amused when I read such cornucopian musings that discuss a utopian future based upon some techno-revolution that is ‘just around the corner’—still waiting for that flying car I was promised as a child in the 1960s (see The Jetsons). I have to wonder if the proponents of such grandiose schemes are aware or just conveniently ignoring the reality that we live in a world that is encountering some hard limits to continued resource extraction, widespread environmental degradation, and exponential growth of an economoic/financial system that is little more than a gargantuan Ponzi scheme—to say little of the cherry-picking of technologies to support their bias. As physicist Niels Bohr is credited with saying: “Predictions are hard, especially if they’re about the future”. But ignoring some real impediments to the widespread production and use on the scale discussed is true science ‘fiction’. 

In reply to by MozartIII

Stuck on Zero MozartIII Mon, 11/20/2017 - 21:44 Permalink

I can't wait for wireless beaming of electromagnetic energy everywhere. My filled teeth will sing at 5 KHz, metal objects will fly through the air randomly, all the nails in the house framing will turn red hot, my wedding band will turn white hot and burn off my finger, my matress will not only be hot but it will scream deafeningly in many overtones, and our nervous systems will be supercharged.

In reply to by MozartIII

sm0k4 Stuck on Zero Tue, 11/21/2017 - 08:25 Permalink

LMAO, yup. We are working with a wireless power start up and the biggest struggle is FCC compliance for the reasons you mentioned. Those high powered signals need to go around people 100% of the time. THey are getting better at beam forming to go around objects but its a ways off yet. To replace the full power grid with wireless?!?! I don't think I'll see it in my lifetime.

In reply to by Stuck on Zero

Common_Law NoDebt Mon, 11/20/2017 - 21:50 Permalink

Tesla used longitudinal waves and non-linear resonances. He lived into the 1940's btw. Think he just sat around watching TV?www.aias.usAfter you learn about all the "free energy" researchers the government has harassed, bought out, or had disappeared it makes more sense.T Townsend Browns work is called a conspiracy even though he worked for the air force on electrogravitics and then had all his private work classified so...Personally I think they'll play this "super technology" card to cement their technological "religion" when or if enough people start to question authority. Big tech has freed some conspiracy tech from the shadows. Like spintronics/TMR with a COP of over 600%

In reply to by NoDebt

Barney Fife Common_Law Mon, 11/20/2017 - 21:51 Permalink

Really? Electromagnetic waves are transverse, not longitudinal unless of course you create a plasma. Then and only then can you create a longitudinal EM wave. But for obvious reasons this is not practical. Yes Tesla insisted that he created them, but he did not. That is very easy to verify with today's modern test equipment. PS. Longitudinal waves are a property of acoustics, not EM. Yes, I have read some pseudotechnical bullshit on the web claiming that he "created" longitudinal waves but almost always this comes from some technician who again, knows a little, then proceeds to blab about it to show that he really knows nothing at all. EM waves in either a vacuum or ordinary air are transverse in nature, not longitudinal.   

In reply to by Common_Law

Barney Fife InTheLandOfTheBlind Tue, 11/21/2017 - 06:05 Permalink

I have serious doubts about your background knowledge too. Another with "just enough knowledge to set himself up to look like an idiot". Fields inside a capacitor are TRANSVERSE not longitudinal. You know only enough to realize that with a charge distribution across two plates, each with an area A seperated by distance d, that by convention, the electric field lines are drawn as straight lines between, and orthogonal to both plates. They are done this way to simplify analysis of the problem. Its one of those "good enough approximations". So here is the problem. If the field were longitudinal then the infamous fringing capacitance issue at the edges of the plate would not occur.  What happens here is that each individual charge exerts an electrical potential (Gauss' Law) in all directions from the charge. That potential is cancelled by the plate, and adjacent charge on the plate so that the net vector E for each charge APPROXIMATES a straight perpendicular line. Nevertheless the net electric potential vector is not orthogonal to the plates. E could only be perfectly orthogonal if either d were infinitesimally small (in which case you are back to a ""wire", LOL) or the area A of the capacitor were infinitely large. Niether one is physically realizable. So, if you have half an education this should have tipped you off. Maxwell's equations would not work on a capacitor if its fields were longitudinal. But you didn't think about that did you? No, you saw in a textbook the E field "pointing parallel to the charge movement" and assumed it was longitudinal. The distances d we are talking about are hundreds of kilimeters, not tens of microns, and the area of any antenna to "launch this electric field" is much smaller than d, which violates this principle. Not to mention that as a power delivery mechanism that within a meter or two you are out in the far-field which means that you have now generated an H field, which must be transverse to exist. Actually the H field was there all along, and was transverse, it was just so infinitesimally small as to be negligible. Be careful where you go with something. Just because you may have been exposed to some principles doesn't mean that you know everything about a problem, and in this case, you don't.  

In reply to by InTheLandOfTheBlind

Common_Law Barney Fife Mon, 11/20/2017 - 22:17 Permalink

Yeah, I'm not 100% on the longitudinal/scalar waves. That gets into russian em scalar weapons and lots of stuff that could have been intentionally seeded with misinformation.But you should check out that link and TMR (Tunneling MagnetoResistance) in spintronics that was relagated computer memory after they published their 6 fold over unity results.…

In reply to by Barney Fife

Lorca's Novena NoDebt Tue, 11/21/2017 - 03:27 Permalink

I pull permits from time to time with SCE (so-cal edison), they are a ruthless self centered CULT. Literally terrifying homeowners who want a panel upgrade threatening them the SCE better do this and that and NOT a contractor. Then theres the pampered workers, lineman. ASSHOLES! DWP is next on my list, however not as bad...

In reply to by NoDebt

Dave from Oz snblitz Mon, 11/20/2017 - 21:19 Permalink

@snblitz I enjoy that scene out of 5th element when Bruce Willisn takes his taxi vertically down through the traffic, and you just know it's illegal because of the orderly lanes of flying cars in the air. The point is made, I think: flying cars are only cool if you are the only one that has one. Once everyone has one, it will be traffic jams and traffic accidents as usual.To put it another, more abstract way: there's no such thing as being wealthy - there's only being more wealthy than someone else.As for "magnetic induction" - it's the way every single transformer on the planet works. You can indeed leech power directly from high tension lines with magnetic induction if you live near them. Every now and then someone tries it, the power company detects it, and then sues the householder. It works, but it does take 33kV more-or-less directly overhead.

In reply to by snblitz

Kelley skbull44 Tue, 11/21/2017 - 00:01 Permalink

If you're interested in the possibility of a utopian future, you will really enjoy the Whirling Bliss Machine when it becomes available, which could be any day now. The first step into the world of utopia began in 1958 when to University of California scientists discovered that the positive ions generated by electical devices slow down the body's cilia hairs from 900 beats a minute to 600 or slower, even stopping. They also found that negative ions, such as what you get from a shower, after a thunderstorm, ocean waves, and waterfalls increase the speed of the beating to 1,200 or even 1,400 beats a minute. All those things produce a feeling of calm, relaxation and energy all at the same time.The killer 'positive' ions interfere with our cells' sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium channels, pushing the"positive mineral ions back as they are repelled by the positive oxygen ions that enter our skin, eyesballs and breath. The end result is increased obesity, Alzheimer's disease, glaucoma, calcium deposits in the arteries, etc. The Whirling Bliss Machine captures the Bliss Particles in the air's moisture, thereby fighting back against the massive exposure we are faced with 24 hours a day.  I'm not making any of this up. You'll see a copy of my book at the website that matches my avatar. We won't have utopia exactly, but a patent pending defense against the smothering electronics all of us are bathed in. (This invention is brand new. The optin will take your info but as of 11/20/17, there is so follow through. The webmaster is working on it. The site seriously could be working by the end of the week, maybe sooner, or maybe later, depending on how much time the webmaster has to devote to the website's construction.) 

In reply to by skbull44

MozartIII uhland62 Mon, 11/20/2017 - 21:27 Permalink

The government is the master of this. That is why I cant fly to you in my non-fosel fueled car.Existing investment in the wrong things/ideas should not be protected by the government. You have to love the free market capatalist system that we have not had in the us sinse the 1840's!  Lincoln and his Railroad buddies, ......................

In reply to by uhland62

armageddon addahere Zuhalter Tue, 11/21/2017 - 02:16 Permalink

The last car with a carburetor was built over 20 years ago. Everything is fuel injection now and gets twice the mileage of any 70s car. Yet some people who know nothing about cars, engines or anything else still think someone is suppressing high mileage inventions.If that is not good enough you can buy an electric car. General Motors, Toyota, and several other major companies sell them. The government will pay you a subsidy to buy one.

In reply to by Zuhalter

Zuhalter MozartIII Mon, 11/20/2017 - 21:40 Permalink

Wrong, wrong, and... oh yes, wrong.Tesla was a brilliant engineer, but he sucked at project management and financial prudence, which brought about his downfall. Nobody "stopped" the Wardenclyffe project.Marconi's advancements caused Tesla to constantly change his design which made his costs skyrocket. What was originally intended as a radio transmission tower was constantly redesigned over 10 years into a wireless power generator, based on Tesla's false belief that the Earth could serve as a conductor. Even if it was completed (which it wasn't) it still would have failed. After 10 years of nothing, no lender would do business with him.The government didn't seize the equipment. The project went bankrupt and the mortgages Tesla took out on Wardenclyffe were forcelosed 6 years after he adandoned it, and it was sold as scrap. 

In reply to by MozartIII

HRClinton aloha_snakbar Tue, 11/21/2017 - 00:00 Permalink

"You'll be able to charge your electric car while you’re driving down the highway. A coil in the bottom of the vehicle could receive electricity from a series of coils connected to an electric current embedded in the road.”Yo, Niggah, have you seen the roads in Baltimore, Buffalo, Detroit or Chicago?Dem electric coils won't be 'embedded' for long. Dyu know what copper coils fetch, bitchez?

In reply to by aloha_snakbar