Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

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It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Who hasn’t wished that everything in life was wireless? Meredith Perry has brought us a step closer to a wireless world with her invention of wireless electricity. Called uBeam , it’s the only wireless power system that allows you to charge your device while moving around a room. It does this unlike other wireless chargers before it, by using ultrasound waves. Beamed from a transmitter, the waves reach a receiver that converts them into electricity to charge the device.

Perry made this groundbreaking discovery when most people are thinking more about taking selfies with their phone than in how it charges. She was studying astrobiology at The University of Pennsylvania when it occurred to her that the idea of using a cord to charge her laptop seemed archaic. She founded uBeam shortly after graduating at age 22. In spite of her Ivy League degree and early ambition, the product also has more humble origins. “It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools,” she says of her choice to do most of her early research using Google and Wikipedia.

This approach not only helped lead Perry to where she is today, but gave her the confidence to pursue her vision in spite of doubters and no engineering background. Her project started with looking at technology that harnessed ambient energy, leading her to piezoelectricity. Perry cites “knowing that the physics was possible and that the system worked” as keeping her going.

And there were many hurdles that uBeam had to overcome. The transmitter had to be small enough to hang in homes, cars or public venues, resulting in transmitters that are no more than 5mm thick. Taking the form of a sleeve for mobile devices, the receiver required a very thin design that both converts the ultrasound and charges the device.

While the implications alone for phones are huge—manufacturers could design smaller phones because they could be charged on the go—Perry sees uBeam impacting the “gamut of electronic devices,” everything from hearing aid batteries to flat screen TVs. The company has filed 25 patents and 27 trademarks (both foreign and the US) and completed a series A round of financing in October 2014. While Perry’s current focus is uBeam, this force of nature isn’t stopping there. If uBeam’s early success is any indication, look out for major innovations in health or transportation in the future.

Illustration by Jason Ratliff, images courtesy of uBeam

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