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Massachusetts company plans to market wireless electricity system

WiTricity says the technology will be able to power lights, computers, TVs and even charges for electric cars through the air, without power cords.

July 28, 2009|David Colker

Could this be the end of electric power cords?

A Massachusetts company said that within 18 months it will have on the market a wireless electricity system to power -- through the air -- lights, computers, televisions and even the chargers for electric cars.

The announcement was made at the TEDGlobal conference, a gathering of technologists and scientists, that wrapped up Friday in Oxford, England.

The company, WiTricity of Watertown, Mass., had previously demonstrated the technology, as had Intel Corp., which is also working on a wireless electricity project.

But the WiTricity announcement marked the first time that a company unveiled plans to commercialize the technology. At the conference, WiTricity's chief executive, Eric Giler, showed how an electrical coil -- placed in a wall or under a piece of furniture -- could power an LCD television several feet away, sans wires.

The basic premise isn't new. Legendary inventor Nikola Tesla, who gave us alternating current that made electricity practical, demonstrated low-power wireless electricity in the 1890s and worked on a plan to send it out over long distances.

The system from WiTricity (Wi-Fi plus electricity) is based on work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to focus the energy transfer, giving it enough oomph to make it useful.

Giler said the system was perfectly safe for humans. But people who left comments, both on The Times' Technology blog and its Facebook version, were skeptical.

"Do you expect this to be really safe?" asked Yasushi Zenno from Japan. "Would it not nuke someone by mistake sometimes?"

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david.colker@latimes.com

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