When I was younger (and still now), I always thought the future would completely embrace wireless technology for everything, including electricity. In an extreme idea of that, there would be no power lines - only wireless electricity transmission towers similar to the abundance of cell phone towers. Well thanks to MIT, we are one step closer to that idea of grandeur.
Realizing their recent theoretical prediction, they were able to light a 60W light bulb from a power source seven feet (more than two meters) away; there was no physical connection between the source and the appliance. The MIT team refers to its concept as "WiTricity" (as in wireless electricity).
The MIT news office has a thorough post on the technical details of how WiTricity works - magnetically coupled resonance. In a nutshell, the technology involves two copper coils. One sends the electricity with a "non-radiative magnetic field oscillating at MHz frequencies" while the other coil turns the field into usable electricity across the room.
Once this technology is honed down, it has a potential use in laptops. The article discusses the possibility of operating a laptop computer within a WiTricity-enabled room, where the laptop wouldn't even need a battery - just a receiving coil. Now the question is, can these coils be made small without impacting their performance (ideal for integration in small devices).
But what happens when the distance of the sending/receiving coils is changed on the fly? That is, if they are 1 foot apart compared to 20, does the electricity transferred change? I can imagine it would be bad if you move your WiTricity laptop too close to the transmitting coil and a boost of electricity fries the laptop.
Next up, WiTricity-powered electric cars (Tesla anyone?) coupled with WiTricity-enabled highways for long road trips.