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Originally published Monday, July 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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LaserMotive taking lasers beyond the lab

A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: LaserMotive, Kent

What: LaserMotive, Kent

Who: Jordin Kare, 51, founder and chief engineer

Mission: Take laser-power beaming out of the laboratory and into the living room.

How it works: Highly focused lasers can be used to transmit electricity from a power source to a battery, enough to power a variety of appliances. Kare hopes to broadcast power where it is most needed and least accessible in applications both small and large. It could be used to drive a laptop, eliminating the need for those pesky power cords. Or it could be used to transmit solar power from a satellite to a remote town.

Predictable: Kare said people generally either think of something in their own lives that could benefit from the technology, or wonder about its safety. He trusts modern laser technology, which is programmed to shut down when something obstructs its path. "Not only do I stand behind this product, I would stand in front of it," he said.

Limitations: Lasers accommodate this interruption because they are used for charging rather than continuous operation. Still, there are places where laser power won't beam in. The laser home probably won't happen because copper wire is still the most inexpensive and reliable way to power a house. Cars are also unlikely. They require a lot of juice and move around through too many dodgy areas to support a reliable wireless power source.

Employees: Six partners and 10 employees

Financials: The private company is not yet profitable. It is going after a $2 million prize in the power-beaming challenge of the NASA-sponsored Space Elevator Games.

Born to beam: Kare has worked with lasers since he was 14. "We don't have a lot of competition," he said, then perhaps obviously adding, "there are not a lot of companies that have this type of background and experience."

— Charles Bermant

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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