July 26, 2011
USU invention powers electric motors without wires
(Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune) — Batteries are the key challenge to developing practical electric vehicles, which have the potential to dramatically cut greenhouse emissions and U.S. dependence on oil. To store enough juice to enable a car to function the way Americans expect, batteries have to be big and expensive.
Utah State University electrical engineers have made a technical breakthrough that could solve this power-storage pitfall — not by improving batteries, but by recharging them wirelessly, according to Jeff Muhs, director of USU’s Energy Dynamics Laboratory (EDL) in North Logan.
EDL researchers have built prototype equipment that allows electricity to hop over a 10-inch span with 90 percent efficiency.
“This demonstration is an extraordinary and historic step in providing technologies to electric-vehicle owners who will be able to pull their cars into garages at home and charge without having to plug in with cords,” Muhs said. “This is just the beginning.”
The demonstrated efficiency compares favorably with the amount of electricity leaking out of the existing grid or lost from wall outlets, said Hunter Wu, a young EDL engineer leading the project.
“There are many challenges. We’re making breakthroughs on energy conversion,” said Wu during a recent demonstration. “Here we are going from direct current to high-frequency alternating energy, which creates the high-frequency magnetic fields to transfer power.”
Wu, who was born in China and grew up New Zealand, came to the lab last year from the University of Auckland, where he was a scientific prodigy. Studying under a bioengineer who developed groundbreaking technology to wirelessly power heart implants, he earned a doctorate in electrical engineering at 19.
His team, which includes engineers Ky Sealy and Aaron Gilchrist, can move five kilowatts of electricity noiselessly from one interface across an air gap to a receiving pad, which powers a bank of light bulbs. More…Posted by: psilberman