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Could this be the end of electric power cords?

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From the time of Thomas Edison, scientists have been trying to develop a system that would send electric power through the air without wires.

Now a Massachusetts company, WiTricity, says it will have just such a system on the market in about 18 months. The company, which has been developing its technology based on the work of MIT physicist Marin Soljacic, made the announcement at the prestigious TEDGlobal conference that ended Friday in Oxford in the U.K.

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The company showed how a transmitting unit, which could be placed in a wall, could power a television set several feet away. The chief executive of the company, Eric Giler, also showed how the system could wirelessly charge a G1 cellphone equipped with an antenna unit so small it could fit inside the phone case.

An iPhone was part of the demonstration, too, but that phone’s innards are so closely packed that the antenna had to be attached to the outside of the case.

Giler said the WiTricity system works on something called resonant magnetic coupling and is safe for humans. And on an environmental note, he said it could not only eliminate power cords but also tons of batteries used yearly to power household devices.

WiTricity showed a version of the technology in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Intel also is working on a wireless electricity system.

-- David Colker


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