Imagine this: You walk into your bedroom, and the iPhone in your pocket immediately begins to charge. Or, you park your electric car on a special mat in the garage and by morning, it's fully charged.
That's the idea behind WiTricity, a wireless power startup founded in 2007 by MIT professor Marin Soljačić, a recipient of the MacArthur fellowship, a.k.a. the "genius" grant.
"He made this discovery that had eluded scientists since Michael Faraday figured out the law of electromagnetic induction," says WiTricity’s CEO, Eric Giler.
The technology is complex and still years from perfection, but Giler says that magnetic resonance--created by coils of conductive materials like copper--could eventually replace wires as the main power source for everything in our lives.
Since Giler has taken over, the start-up, which recently opened another office in Nibley, Utah, has quietly raised about $45 million.
Most of the capital the company has received thus far has been from big companies such as Toyota and Haier, which might one day want to use WiTricity's wireless charging technology.
"Within the next decade, wireless electricity should become quite commonplace--15 years for sure," Giler says. "From a business perspective, we just want to make sure we get paid for our work," Giler says. "That tends to mean licensing."
Proposing a wireless energy solution is a bold idea. For WiTricity to scale, entire industries would have to change the way they design products.
"The history of transmitting electricity wirelessly goes all the way back to [Nikola] Tesla," says Max Levchin, a co-founder of PayPal and one of Inc.'s Audacious judges. "He made audacious claims about being able to transmit electricity over unlimited distances. But he never quite demonstrated it, or at least not enough to make a commercial use for it.
"[WiTricity] is a great application and it has an opportunity to really make a big difference in certain situations, including some of the classic problems of rural, poor, environments, or shelter after a natural disaster."