Ever dreamed of unfettering your teakettle from the kitchen outlet? A breakthrough by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) may someday help you do just that. Scientists recently succeeded in transmitting 1.8 kilowatts of electricity — enough to power 18 hundred-watt light bulbs, a single hair dryer, or the aforementioned teakettle — to a receiver 170 feet away via microwave.
Experiments of this nature have been conducted before, but Phys.org notes that this marks the largest amount of electricity transferred at a distance with minimal deterioration. Attenuation, which increases proportional to distance, has long been the Achilles heel of wireless electrical transmitters.
While the method developed by JAXA could have household implications, the agency is in the process of investigating inter-atmospheric applications. The goal is to one day launch solar panel-equipped satellites outfitted with microwave antennas, which could beam collected energy to base stations on Earth.
The advantages of solar power collected from the upper reaches of the atmosphere are many, including constant exposure regardless of surface, time of day, or weather conditions. However, the scientists have their work cut out for them. Most satellites orbit around 22,300 miles from the Earth, a far greater length than most wireless systems are capable of transmitting.
Additionally, there are infrastructural barriers. Satellites are expensive to fabricate and send into orbit, and there’s the matter of maintaining them. “It could take decades before we see the practical application of the technology — maybe in the 2040s or later,” a spokesman for the JAXA told Phys.org. In the meantime, it sounds like we’ll just have to settle for Qi.