While most know Disney as a company that creates colorful animated films and holds sway over a vast merchandising empire, few know that they run a huge network of companies that support their main goals. One of those support companies, Disney Research, is tasked with creating new technologies to further the overarching media and entertainment goals of Disney proper. Turns out that they've just found a scalable way to transmit electricity within given rooms - without wires.
The chief scientist at Disney Research, Alanson Sample, hailed the discovery as an "innovative method [that] will make it possible for electrical power to become as ubiquitous as WiFi. Sample went on to describe how this could be a game changer "for robots and other small mobile devices by eliminating the need to replace batteries and wires for charging."
This breakthrough has been dubbed Quasistatic Cavity Resonance (QSCR). It relies on inducing an electrical current in metalized walls, floor, and ceiling of a room to generate near-field standing magnetic waves. These waves are able to fill a space and power numerous devices at the same time. The demonstration of this new method allowed researchers to power several phones, lights, and fans at the same time within a specially constructed room. "In this work," explained Sample, "we've demonstrated room-scale wireless power, but there's no reason we couldn't scale this down to the size of a toy chest or up to the size of a warehouse."
Some of you reading this probably got a bit skeptical at the thought of an electric current running through the floors, walls, and ceiling of a given room. However, QSCR currents in the structure are channeled through capacitors tasked with isolating potentially harmful electrical fields. Sample points to the data from the demonstrations of this method to prove that they can transmit up to 1.9 kilowatts of electricity (enough to charge 320 smart phones at the same time) while remaining within a safe zone of conduction for the structure. The magnetic waves, on the other hand, don't interact strongly enough with everyday objects to effect them. The researchers stated that rooms like this would be safe for human occupation for any length of time.
Disney Research published their findings in the online journal PLOS ONE earlier this month. The demonstration they used to show their method works involved a specially constructed 16-by-16-foot room with aluminum walls, ceiling and floor bolted to an aluminum frame. A copper pole placed in the center of the room and cut with a gap for discrete capacitors allows for the transmission of electricity without wires. Their demonstration of the technology is incredibly impressive for something so early in development.
The team had to construct a special room for this first proof of concept, but Alanson Sample believes that refining the technology could reduce the needs of their crude setup. Fewer metalized wall, ceiling, and floor panels might be necessary or older spaces might be retrofitted with special conductive paint instead. Currently, charging ranged anywhere from 40%-95% efficiency, but that range could be brought up higher through testing and experimentation.
So, yeah. We might be getting rooms set up to broadcast electricity in the same way they now broadcast WiFi. Imagine wireless controllers that never need to be plugged in. Imagine the lack of cord clutter for PCs and consoles. Imagine not having to worry about whether you have the right charging cable for your phone. We're close to a future like that; technology is so freaking cool!