Circuit boards Out, Meta–boards In?

Conventional circuit boards and their metallic tentacles may be on their way out—someday. Scientists at Oxford University have developed a new kind of sealed “metaboard” by embedding copper coils into a conductive layer. This meta- board can transfer data and power using magneto-inductive waves instead of wires.

The Guardian, the British daily, explains: “Taking the science behind the Pentagon’s cloaking device, they came up with a technology that replaces the solder, pins, and wiring of the conventional computer with Lego-like blocks of silicon stuck to a Velcro-like metamaterial board that can wirelessly transmit both data and power.” Metamaterial, in case you were wondering, is any artificial material with properties not found in nature.

A demonstration at Oxford proved that data from a small solid-state memory device could be detected with a tap on the metaboard. A subsequent demo showed power being transferred to red LEDs despite the imposition of a paper barrier.

“Right now we can achieve a 3.5 gigabit-per-second data transfer rate and hundreds of watts of power—enough to recharge any number of mobile devices without loss of efficiency,” engineering professor Chris Stevens told the newspaper. “But the circuits have the capacity for increased performance, and the limits aren’t really known.” He hopes to expedite development by offering the technology to a well-heeled TV or computer manufacturer.