According to Dave Schatz, the head of business development at WiTricity, the Intel project is one of a handful that have a long way to go before they result in products. “A number of companies have stated that they’re doing similar [wireless power] as a research activity, but there are no products,” he says. If these companies do make products, Schatz suspects that there could be intellectual property issues. Soljacic and his team applied for patents in 2007 before the technology was announced, and since then, the company, founded in April of that year, has been working hard to develop products. Schatz believes that others will find it difficult to catch up. “Not only do they have a lot of technology to develop, but there will also be IP issues to consider,” he says.
In January, WiTricity demonstrated the first generation of “embedded solutions,” in which wireless coils were built into devices like laptop computers and flat-screen televisions. “The coils are compact and designed into products with sources that are small and flat,” Schatz says. And just last week, he demonstrated a prototype charger that can wirelessly charge an electric-car battery, transferring up to three kilowatts.
There are still a number of engineering challenges, says Schatz, including finding the best way to shrink the coils, which are made of copper, so that they can be integrated easily into devices of various shapes and sizes. But he suspects that his company’s products will be on the market within the next 18 months.