Are we closing in on laptops that can recharge without those annoying power cords?

Yesterday Intel, the world's largest chip manufacturer, demonstrated a form of wireless energy transfer by lighting a 60-watt bulb from a power source three feet away, in an effect they referred to as WREL (wireless resonant energy link)

If the trick sounds familiar, that's because researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reported the same thing last year under the moniker WiTricity.

Two years ago, MIT researcher Marin Soljacic figured out a way to transmit electricity via the magnetic field surrounding a charged loop of wire. A similar loop wired up to a light bulb or another electrical device would draw power from that magnetic field—no wires attached.

Soljacic and his colleagues reported a year later in Science they could transfer energy to a 60-watt bulb with 50 percent efficiency from six feet away and 90 percent efficiency from three feet. Intel announced they had achieved 75 percent efficiency from two to three feet away.

An Intel researcher contacted the MIT group with some technical questions after the study came out, says Andre Kurs, an MIT PhD candidate and first author on the Science paper. "From what I've seen in the pictures, they're exploring the same principles we did," Kurs told

Comparing efficiencies is tricky, he said, because it depends on details such as the size of the coils used. He added that Intel's demo is the first reported replication of the MIT group's work that he's aware of.

The New York Times notes that companies such as WildCharge in Boulder, Colo., and WiPower in Altamonte Springs, Fla., have demonstrated wireless charging, but their technologies require the device to touch a charging station.

The promise of the MIT advance is having your laptop draw power from anywhere in a room, similar to WiFi. But that seems to be a ways off. You can see from the photo above that the coils involved are way too big to fit in a laptop.

Kurs said he couldn't comment on what his group has in the works next. He said the team was "taking steps" toward commercializing the technology.

Image credit: Intel