Uni pair take top honours for an accidental discovery that's setting the pace worldwide.
Picture a car you can drive for as long as you like without ever having to fill it up or plug it in.
A pacemaker you can charge without sticking any wires into your body, or a cellphone that can be placed on a pad and left to power up.
It's not science fiction - the technology is all there today.
But to Professors John Boys and Grant Covic the ideas must have seemed heady stuff two decades ago when they made the breakthrough that would see it all become possible.
What their wireless inductive power transfer system, known as IPT, has since meant for everything from electronics and manufacturing to transport and the environment has startled them both.
"It's beyond what we ever thought it would be - it's much, much bigger," said Professor Boys.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday recognised the University of Auckland pair's work at a ceremony in Wellington, where they were presented with this year's Prime Minister's Science Prize.
Their system essentially makes it possible for power to be transferred without cables, instead transporting the current across the magnetic field between two close points.
When US Fortune 500 company Qualcomm bought it for $70 million from the university's commercial arm two years ago, it was believed to have been the most successful deal for any New Zealand university or crown research institute start-up company.
Not bad for technology that the professors chanced upon in a lab back in 1992.
"We were trying to make a device which would be very good for making power supplies, and what I actually made instead was something that would put an enormous amount of current into a wire and control it," Professor Boys said.
Today, at least 70 per cent of the world's LCD screens and other electronic equipment requiring computer chips are manufactured on systems using the technology.
Car-makers such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi also rely on it, while theme park rides and roadway lighting in traffic tunnels throughout the world, including Wellington's Terrace Tunnel, are powered and controlled by the innovation.
For more than a decade, the team's focus has been on inductive power and charging systems for electric vehicles, automatic guided vehicles and robotics. A company, HaloIPT, was spun out to develop the technology further for electric vehicles, with the next frontier being in-road wireless charging, eliminating the need for plug-in battery chargers and enabling cars to recharge as they travel on highways.
In the past four years alone, their work has attracted more than $20 million in research funding. Income is also flowing from licence fees.
More importantly, the technology, which uses less magnetism than that of a fridge magnet, comes with near zero impact on the environment.
"It's a journey of discovery," Professor Boys said.
"One stone might have a fairy princess under it and the rest might have frogs but you don't know until you've turned them all over, so you need to look in every possible direction."
Dr Benjamin O'Brien: The Prime Minister's MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize
The bioengineer is renowned for his research into electroactive polymers, or EAPs, materials that change in size or shape when stimulated by an electrical field.
His biggest achievement was the "dielectric elastomer switch", allowing electronics to be directly embedded into artificial muscle devices, giving them lifelike reflexes.
His work is paving the way for smart, lifelike prostheses and soft robots that can adapt to changing environments.
The company, StretchSense, is at the forefront of soft stretch sensors - soft pieces of elastic material that transmit information about how much they are being stretched - which, when integrated into clothing, can provide precise and unobtrusive measurement of body motion.
Fenella Colyer: The Prime Minister's Science Teacher Prize
As head of physics at Manurewa High School, Mrs Colyer has been the driving force over the past two years behind a 30 per cent increase in the number of Maori and Pasifika students studying physics, with their pass rate rising to 81 per cent, exceeding the national average.
Nearly one-third of students at the decile 2 multicultural secondary school now study physics.
Mrs Colyer has created resources, experiments and video tutorials and rewritten an ICT touch screen Sparklab program, replacing the American content with New Zealand learning modules.
Dr Siouxsie Wiles: The Prime Minister's Science Media Communication Prize
Dr Wiles, a senior research fellow and leader of the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at Auckland University, is one of the nation's go-to scientists for media comment.
She also regularly posts blogs and creates YouTube videos, has written for local and overseas newspapers, and contributes to radio and television programmes.
Tom Morgan: The Prime Minister's Future Scientist Prize.
The Year 13 student from Marlborough Boys' College has won acclaim for his original project in the area of vitamin-rich foods.
His research showed that oyster mushrooms have the potential to be enriched with vitamin D for people at risk of osteoporosis and those who do not get enough sunlight.