Wireless electricity conduction is a fascinating subject. Such technology is still in its early stages, but the importance of its development will be significant to humanity worldwide. Statistics indicate that the world population is increasing by the day. Many nations are constantly trying to improve the quality of living of their citizens. These trends only serve to reveal the growing demand for energy globally. Wireless electricity is a modern technological concept of transmission of electrical energy to devices without the use of wires. With this technology, it is be virtually possible to power or charge gadgets, without wiring them to a power source. The technology has still not been fully deployed but due to the rising demand for energy, it is evident that this is the way of the future.
The evolution of power transmission dates way back in 1826 when André-Marie Ampère developed Ampere’s law and proved that electric current produces a magnetic field. Later on in the early 1830s, Michael Faraday developed Faraday’s law of induction. In the late 19th century, inventor Nikola Tesla, with his idea to light the world with wireless electricity, theorized the possibility of wireless charging. He demonstrated his idea by powering vacuum bulbs from the power without using wires to transmit power during an exposition in Chicago. The recognition that wireless electricity could light up bulbs prompted an idea revolution to determine the best possible way for distribution. Confused over how lines of wires could extend into every city and building, Tesla figured that wireless power was the way to proceed. Tesla constructed the Wardenclyffe Tower, and his idea was to use it to transmit electricity to the world without wires using the ionosphere. Niagara Falls power plant in Nigeria was to be the origin of power.
William Brown also receives credit for modern research of the microwave power transmission. In 1961, he published his first paper proposing microwave energy for power transmission. In early 1960s, Brown invented antenna which could directly convert microwave to DC current and in 1964, he successfully demonstrated a microwave-powered model helicopter that had all the power needed for the flying from a microwave ray.
Later on, a research group led by Prof. Soljacic demonstrated wireless powering. They lit a 60 watts bulb with 40% efficiency at a distance of two meters using two 60cm diameter coils. They used reverberating induction to transmit power with no wire. To date, the group aims to revamp the wireless technology.
Tesla’s Wardebclyffe Tower for Wireless Power Transfer
The invention of wireless electricity was a fundamental principle that lay the basis on the direction that future technology would take. Wireless power transfer involves the transmission of energy from the power source to a destination device without wires.
The foundation for wireless power system comprises of two coils where one is a transmitter and the other a receiver. The transmitter coil gains energy from an alternating current. A magnetic field forms, which in turn transmits voltage to the receiver coil.
Wireless electrical systems eradicate the need for high-tension cables, towers, and substations that in reality are expensive, capital intense and worst of all, inefficient way of energy transmission. Such a move is bound to open up global scale connectivity of power system. The cost of transmitting and receiving the energy in the long run becomes cheaper thus reducing the cost. Developed and developing countries need more efficient energy distribution systems and sources. With the new systems, there exists a large market for wireless power transmission.
The use of wireless power through these means ultimately ensures that electricity becomes available in virtually all areas regardless of their geographical locations. This method is considered very efficient as loss of power through transmission attenuation is insignificant. The act of natural calamities like floods, earthquakes or even landslides cannot does not have a long lasting effect as long as wireless power technology is in place. Such kind of technology, therefore, increases reliability. The issue of power failure due to short circuit or faults in the cable lines does not occur.
Since power transmits through air, electronic waste is considerably reduced thus it becomes more environment friendly. In terms of space occupied, infrastructure like powerhouses, dams, substations and transmission grid lines cease to exist. The receiver can be attached to any electrical devices and appliances that it need not use battery. The portability of the electrical devices increases.
The downside of wireless energy transmission is that the original cost is very high when it comes to practical implementation. Use of microwave also means that interference is high. Sustaining a constant power level is a challenge since electromagnetic waves scatter freely as they propagate in space that in effect lowers efficiency. The problem can however be overcome by using multiple antennae.
Surprisingly, there are no federally deployed national standards for safe exposure levels of radiofrequency energy. However, this issue has been addressed by most agencies. The FCC guidelines contain two separate levels of exposure restrictions that depend on the situation in which the exposure occurs. It also depends on the position of the persons exposed. The decision as to which level applies is based on:
- Controlled exposure limits: these apply to situations where persons are exposed as a result of their occupation and where the exposed persons are fully advised of the potential exposure and how to exercise control over such exposure. Controlled exposure restrictions also apply where exposure is of a temporary nature as a result of passing through a location where exposure levels may be above general population controlled limits, as long as the exposed person has been fully advised of the potential for exposure and can exercise control over such exposure by departing the area or by some other appropriate means.
- Uncontrolled exposure limits: these apply to situations in which the people may be exposed or whereby the persons exposed as a result of their employment may not be fully aware of the risk to exposure and have no control over such exposure. Therefore, the public falls under this category when exposure is not employment-related. For instance, occupants in an area near a broadcast tower. Neighbors of such base stations and other non-household members would normally be subject to the general population exposure limits.
Apart from the Federal Communications Commission, other federal health and safety agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are vigorously engaged in checking and inspecting issues associated with radiofrequency contact. Of primary concern in the use of wireless power, is human risk to ecological radiofrequency fields from transmitters regulated by Federal Communications Commission. The Food and Drugs Administration, for instance, issues strategies for harmless radiofrequency emission levels from microwave ovens, and, it continues to monitor risk issues related to the use of radiofrequency devices like cellular phones. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducts surveys and assessments on health hazard connected to radiofrequency risk to occupation.
Federal Communications Commission’s guiding principles are useful for assessing risk from fixed devices as well as from mobile and portable conveying devices, such as cellular phones and personal communications devices. It is done in accordance with Federal Communications Commission responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy.
All wireless devices sold in the United States go through a formal Federal Communications Commission endorsement process to guarantee they do not exceed the maximum set levels when operating the device at the maximum possible power level. If the Federal Communications Commission becomes aware of devices not conforming to the set guidelines by them, the Federal Communications Commission can withdraw its approval and pursue legal action against the parties involved.
Since January 1, 1998, all parties are expected to regularly evaluate their stations for potential human risk to radiofrequency fields that may exceed the Federal Communications Commission’s adopted boundaries for maximum permissible risk. If such an assessment confirms that potential risk exceeds the maximum permissible exposure limits, parties are under obligation to take appropriate corrective action to restore compliance before transmission occurs.
The government is greatly involved in the development of wireless technology in terms of support and also policies that govern such technology. For a nation’s government to give a go ahead in any technological advancement, it must weigh the pros and cons of such technology in relation to the safety of its citizens be it psychologically, morally and ethically and also the well-being of the citizens. Technologies that are detrimental to the lives of people are usually burned from ever seeing the light of day. On the other hand, technologies that are bound to revolutionize the way of living and making life easier are entertained by the government and given much support. The type of support offered could be provision of funds for big capital projects or even access to special resources like modern labs, qualified experts in the area of technology and even marketing by providing assurance to the public that the technology will be beneficial to them.
The government is also responsible for making sure that the economy of a country is kept stable and moving in the right direction. If a technology is bound to provide competitive advantage and in the long run contribute positively towards the growth of the economy, the government is bound to ensure the success of such technology. Wireless power for example is such technology that is bound to revolutionize the energy sector. If well supported the idea would have a lasting impact on the lives of people and also the economy of the country. Things will be much easier to do with this type of technology. Mobile phones could be charged from people’s pockets as long as there a source of power exists. Cars would run on electricity and be charged in traffic hence saving on gasoline and also on fuel related costs. Such technology would also translate to high revenue for the government and ultimately the economy would flourish. In general, the quality of life would improve.
The main question people would ask in the light of wireless power is whether it can kill. According to research, wireless power is extremely safe. This was well illustrated by Nikola Tesla back in 1989 when he built a 42-foot-tall, 12-million-volt electric coil in Colorado Springs and transmitted electricity wirelessly across 25 miles, illuminating 200 lamps with the charge. When he turned on the switch, flashes of lightning were seen to burst from the coil but surprisingly, no one was hurt during the incidence. The experiment proved that earth could be used to transmit electricity with no wires needed. Tesla again used Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction to prove that wireless electricity was harmless. He proved that while it is airborne, wireless electricity exists as a magnetic field and indeed harmless. This concept has been used to date to produce electric toothbrushes where magnetic induction is used to transmit a charge from the charging system to the batteries inside the electric toothbrush.
In 2006, professor Soljacic, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, lit a 60-watt bulb by using magnetic induction to transmit wireless electricity across a room. He adjusted both the conveyance and reception coils in his electromagnetic field to vibrate at the same rate. The current was found to bypass everything else including humans attesting to the fact that it was better than tesla experiment and safer too. Today, Soljacic is the owner of a WiTricity company, can send 3,000 watts across a room or garage, since 3,000 watts can charge an electric car.
Many think that wireless power technology is not safe and fear its impact in human health and environment. According to the IEEE standard, however, safety studies have shown that wireless power radiation level would never be higher than the amount emitted when opening a microwave oven door. The implication is that the emissions are greater than those from cellular phones.
Moral and Ethical Considerations
Wireless power if, used daily for both domestic and commercial purposes, has a wide range of benefits. According to Branscombe, 2009, wireless power can become more efficient when used with intelligent systems that monitor the power level and discontinue charging when power a device is full and no longer requires to be charged. Energy is a treasured resource and must be used with as much limitation as possible.
Maximization of energy generated is achievable with the use of intelligent systems that use smart technology in terms of using only the amount needed. Ultimately, this lessens the reliance on remnant energies. Ethically, in an effort to preserve energy, reducing huge energy consumption and limiting the amount of energy leads to an economic friendly environment where wireless power can be produced on large scale.
For any new technology, however, there is always a downside. The health impact is the most notable with wireless power technology. The disadvantages of wireless power, however, are significantly overshadowed by the advantages. In an ethic point of view, development of wireless power technology should continue to mass production.
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