- A 26 year-old scientist and inventor is developing wireless power.
- She wants investors and inventors to tackle difficult projects, not easy ones that deliver quick financial returns.
- Investing in the future and doing something meaningful with your talents should be everyone’s primary concern.
Meredith Perry is one of those rare people that actually thought being smart at school was cool. When you’re in elementary school it’s not something the other kids usually admire or respect. While her friends were dreaming of what to wear to parties that weekend, Perry would be dreaming about winning a Nobel Prize for curing cancer. “I thought that it might be possible,” she says. “I’ve always pursued things that other people think are crazy.”
How does wireless electricity sound for crazy? This is what the 26 year-old is currently working on, and she’s already formed a company, uBeam, raising more than $23 million in funding and raising the eyebrows of seasoned scientists. Her idea sounds simple: charge a device by sending electricity through the air. It’s something most of us have considered at some point, but thought impossible. Serbian-American inventor, Nikola Tesla, experimented with wireless lighting and electricity distribution in the late 1800s, but was dismissed as a “mad scientist” by an amused public.
Perry has created a technology that uses ultrasound to transmit power over the air to charge electronic devices wirelessly. A transmitter emits ultrasound waves, and then a receiver attached to a phone captures the sound and converts it into electricity. For the purpose of talking to Real Leaders, this was all Perry was prepared to give away.
“It allows for a “Wi-Fi-like” experience of charging,” says Perry. “Our goal is to have uBeam in every aircraft and airport terminal, or on the sides of buildings; anywhere electricity is available. The inventor is well aware of the large impact an invention such as uBeam can have on society, but the everyday applications of the technology and convenience factor is also top of mind.
“Yesterday, I flew from New York to L.A. and at the end of my flight I had two dead phones. I couldn’t call an Uber until I charged my phone for 10 minutes at a wall socket. While wanting to make an impact on the world, I also selfishly want to solve my own needs,” she says laughingly.
If wireless power becomes the norm, then battery sizes can shrink because devices will always be charging. Power cords will become redundant and international charging adaptors will disappear.
In school, Perry was not aware of the fact that a woman pursuing science and technology was something rare.. Only when she entered the world of business did she realize the disparity in the workplace for the very first time.
“Some of the most exciting and innovative companies, doing very complex work, are run by females,” says Perry. She gives examples of Danielle Fong of Lightsail Energy, who is solving energy storage for solar power and Leslie Dewan of Transatomic Power who is using nuclear waste to create green power.
“These technologies and companies are some of the most disruptive, futuristic and innovative that I have come across in the last five years,” says Perry. “The best way to change perceptions is to keep doing what you’re doing and people will start to see that women are leaders in engineering and business too.”
Perry is a deep thinker and her thoughts on transmitting things through space go far beyond charging a mobile device. She studied Paleobiology and astrobiology at the University of Pennsylvania and originally took an interest in finding life on other planets. Paleobiology is the study of old life and astrobiology is the study of life in space. She has a keen interest in terraforming planets too – turning other planets into ones like earth.
“For example, Mars has no atmosphere,” she says. “We would need to create an atmosphere or change our biology to fit a new environment. This would require a biologically or genetically modified human to be able to survive.” Perry’s view on why we should look to space for our species survival is not based on ignoring the challenges we face on earth. “I think both are important,” she says. We need to protect earth, but I feel it’s our duty as a species to explore other worlds if we have the capability to do so”.
After developing uBeam into a marketable and scalable product within the next two years, Perry would like to focus on increasing longevity. “I view death as a problem. I don’t want to die at 90 years old,” she says. It saddens me that I will never get to visit another galaxy because it simply takes too long to get there. Finding a way to move faster than the speed of light would be nice,” she says.
For the moment though, Perry is focused on moving energy a few yards through the air and has a vision of inventors changing the world, alongside equally visionary investors. “Don’t just work to sell an app to a big company, if you have the skills, do something meaningful,” she says.
“Invest in the future. Invest in difficult things. uBeam would not exist if very specific people hadn’t taken a risk to invest in complex, difficult technologies. Sure, it will take longer to become profitable than your average software start-up, but we all need to do our part in moving the world forward.” says Perry.