Scientists studying wireless electric transmission in Central Texas

Published: Oct. 1, 2018 at 4:07 PM CDT
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An oddly shaped, but prominent, roadside construction project along Interstate 35-East just north of Carl’s Corner is actually a high-tech study into the feasibility of transmitting electricity from place to place without wires.

Driving toward Dallas on Interstate 35 East, just past Carl’s Corner on the right, there’s a unique tower. It has a large circular base, a smaller round structure jutting from the top, and on top of the pole sits a large, round, metal-looking ball.

One of the broadcast engineers at KWTX noticed the thing while coming back from Dallas, took a picture and brought it to the newsroom so a reporter could figure out what it is.

Guesses ranged from some kind of electric-powered car charging port, or a radar for Dallas Fort Worth International Airport or Love Field, maybe something to do with the Internet and even a suggestion that it might be a prop on a new Star Trek movie set.

Turns out the first guess was closest.

It’s part of an experiment to study the feasibility of transmission of electric energy from source to user without using wires.

It’s being undertaken by a Waxahachie company named Viziv and it uses a technology they call a surface wave system.

“The Viziv surface wave systems will improve the quality of life for people everywhere by enabling the delivery of affordable electricity throughout the world,” Viziv Technologies states on its website.

So far the company has associated with the BRIC, the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative, on the project, as noted in a recent news release from Baylor that said the research effort, in part: “to provide the capability to safely, economically and efficiently deliver electrical power virtually anywhere in the world through the use of surface wave technologies. Research within the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) will inform each of these applications as commercial development continues.”

Viziv is one of six companies associated with the Baylor group that is studying similar innovations. The company is headed up by former USAF Brig. Gen. Michael W. Miller, who retired from the Air Force after 28 years of military service.

The company leases 3,055-square-feet at BRIC, a 330,000-square-foot facility that provides access to: “fundamental and applied research, industry collaboration, business acceleration and incubation, workforce development and STEM educational outreach and research,” BRIC’s website says.

“As an electrical and computer engineering (ECE) professor at Baylor, my colleagues and I were among the first to move our research into the BRIC in 2013,” said Viziv Chief Technology Officer Randall Jean, Ph.D.

“It is a world-class facility with an ever-expanding scope and depth of research capabilities. Within Baylor’s ECE department, the programs in electromagnetics and power systems are among the strongest, making collaboration with Viziv Technologies a perfect fit for addressing a host of exciting challenges.”

There are those who say the idea is crazy, among them, including contributors to the EEVblog Electronics Community Forum, where one can find comments that refute Viziv’s claims.