Meredith Perry, Innovator – Ultrasonic Wireless Charging


>>Rebecca Jarvis: I want to introduce to all
of you our next speaker. Her name is Meredith Perry. She is 25 years old, and she imagined
something and made it possible. She imagined being able to charge a room filled
with electronic devices without ever touching them. And as a result, she founded uBeam which
is a transmitter which can recharge wireless devices using ultrasonic waves.
And it’s so nice to have you here with us.>>Meredith Perry: Thank you.
>>Rebecca Jarvis: And we were talking before, and she said to me, “I’m not an engineer and
no one thought this was possible.”>>Meredith Perry: Yes.
>>Rebecca Jarvis: So what did you do? How did you make it possible?
>>Meredith Perry: Well, I just asked a number of questions and Googled incessantly until
I could figure out a way to wirelessly transmit through the air. So thank you, Google, for
making uBeam possible. Yeah, basically what happened was I was standing
in my room when I was a senior at Penn, holding my 15-foot long laptop charger, thinking how
archaic is this? It’s 2011. We’re using wireless devices, and I’m tethered to the wall, literally
chained to the wall with this wire to charge it.
And so I just started asking myself, okay, well, how can we beam energy through the air?
And I started thinking about things that I knew that beamed energy through the air. So
I started very simply, like thinking about the remote control. And so I thought, okay,
how does a remote control talk to a TV? I knew absolutely nothing.
And so I wondered, well, can I amplify the power of the remote control beam to actually
charge a device? And that’s not a good solution. So I went through the entire electromagnetic
spectrum, and I was like, okay, there are all these different things that we can beam.
We can beam everything from radio waves to gamma waves. But I soon realized that everything
on the right half of the spectrum was too dangerous to beam. You know, you wouldn’t
want x-rays whizzing through your body just to be able to charge your phone.
And everything on the left half of the spectrum, closer to radio waves, are either limited
by the government or too inefficient. So I did a little research on what other people
were doing to wirelessly charge devices using things like induction. So if you are familiar
with how you charge your electric toothbrush or something called a power mat, you place
a device on a mat. And that wasn’t good enough. I was like, okay, Well, why can’t we move
past that sort of zero distance to one-foot space where it seemed like that’s where the
wireless power technologies were going. And so I started looking into harnessing ambient
energy, and I found a device called a piezoelectric transducer, which converts physical vibration
or physical impact into electricity. So, for example, you could put it underneath a train
as the train goes by. You could harness the impact of that train moving by and collect
some of that energy. So I thought to myself, well, if we can do
this with physical impact, how can we figure out a way to induce vibration or impact through
the air with something invisible? And so it occurred to me that sound does that.
Sound travels through the air by vibrating air particles, and we can potentially use
the same energy-harvesting material to capture the vibration of sound as we do with physical
impact. And so I decided to use ultrasound because you can’t hear it, and the concept
was born. [ Laughter ]
>>Rebecca Jarvis: And how did you make it from there —
[ Applause ] It was that simple.
How did you take it from that idea and make it into something which, by the way, she does
have a prototype and we will be doing a demonstration.>>Meredith Perry: Not a demo, not a demo.
>>Rebecca Jarvis: Okay. Well, you will be seeing it. At the very least, you will be
seeing it. We will have you turn off your cameras for that part.
But how did you bring it from that to the prototype?
>>Meredith Perry: Where we are today?>>Rebecca Jarvis: Yes.
>>Meredith Perry: I did tons and tons and tons of research. And like you mentioned before,
everybody thought it was impossible. To my physics professors at Penn, to my product
design professor at Penn who told me you shouldn’t do this, to some of the top ultrasonic researchers
in the world, to some of the top, you know, “Time” 100 thinkers, everybody told me there
is no possible way that this can be done. Thank you, everybody.
[ Laughter ] And so here I am two years later with a working
prototype, and we can — I mean, we can power devices at a rate faster than a wire over
distances greater than any other wireless power system that has ever been created.
And it’s — it’s real. And so that really taught me a lot about trusting expertise and
understanding that — [ Laughter ]
— you know, expertise is a narrow way of looking at things. And sometimes being naive
actually can be quite helpful in coming up with new innovative ideas.
So, anyway, so basically I contacted, you know, the top ultrasonic engineers. You know,
even though they told me that this couldn’t be done, I stopped telling me people what
I was trying to do and I just said, okay, make this part for me, you know make this
device and these are the parameters for this and these are the parameters for that and
we put it all together and then it works. It wasn’t that simple. You know, I ultimately
got a couple incredible engineers who believed in the vision and in the math and are now,
you know, my key technical executive team. And, you know, we’ve been through hell over
the past two years trying to get this to work. But it was actually just three months ago
that we completed our first functional working prototype.
>>Rebecca Jarvis: What’s been the scariest moment along the way so far?
>>Meredith Perry: The scariest moment, the moments when — you know, when I just doubted
myself thinking that maybe these — maybe all these really smart Ph.D. dudes are right
[ Laughter ] And I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking
about, and I’m going to fall flat on my face and everyone is going to watch me.
>>Rebecca Jarvis: So what kept you going?>>Meredith Perry: Knowing that the math was
right. Knowing that I knew that this was possible. In my mind, this was just extraordinarily
difficult. But if something is difficult, that doesn’t mean it is impossible. And so
if it is not impossible, then you have to do it.
And I knew I was the only one who would do it because everyone else was not going to.
And so I just had to keep pushing because I knew that the idea could be so big that
if I could just get it to work, then, you know, everything would change. So… just
knowing that it could potentially be done.>>Rebecca Jarvis: Where does it go from here?
Where do you take it?>>Meredith Perry: So from here, we — so we
have our functional prototype and now we are turning it from something that looks kind
of like a bomb/spaceship into a real product that will go into people’s hands within the
next two years.

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