Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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8/21/2008
04:05 PM
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Intel Demos Wireless Power, Robotics, 'Programmable Matter'

Justin Rattner, Intel's CTO, showed off the company's up-and-coming technology at the final keynote of the chipmaker's Developer Forum.

Intel on Thursday showed off its technology for transmitting power wirelessly, a capability that could one day help eliminate the wire clutter behind desks and other areas of the home or office.

Wireless power was one of several technologies Justin Rattner, CTO for Intel, highlighted at the last keynote of the chipmaker's Developer Forum in San Francisco. Rattner also rolled out Intel's work in robotics and "programmable matter," which is the ability to manipulate the shape, size, and even color of an object.

Alanson Sample, a University of Washington intern at Intel's research facility in Seattle, demonstrated the ability to transmit 60 watts of power a distance of two or three feet, using two round metal coils, one as a transmitter, the other a receiver. The latter had a light bulb on the top that remained lit as Sample, a graduate student in electrical engineering, moved the coil around.

The technology builds on the work of Marin Soljacic, a physicist at MIT. Intel and MIT researchers are leveraging a phenomenon know as "resonant induction" in transmitting power.

Intel's system, called a "wireless resonant energy link," relies on strongly coupled resonators, which operate on a principle similar to how a singer can shatter glass with her voice. The receiving resonator absorbs power at its natural frequency much like a glass absorbs sound energy at its natural frequency.

If the technology finds its way into our daily lives, it could one day make it possible to recharge or operate a laptop or any other device simply by placing it on a desk or table with a wireless power device built in. If these devices proliferate, then we may no longer need a notebook battery, for example, a capacitor could be used instead to store power temporarily, Rattner said.

No timetable was given for when the technology could find its way to the market. Intel is working on miniaturizing the power-receiving antenna to a size where it could fit in the base of a notebook.

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