While they might still seem rather high-tech, induction cooktops have been on the market since at least the mid-1970s. Instead of warming pots via heat transfer from electrical elements or gas burners, they instead use coils of copper wire located beneath their ceramic glass surface to induce an electrical field within metal pots, which results in the resistive heating of their contents. Typically, the sizes and locations of those coils are marked on the stove's surface, and users must place their pots on those. Thermador's new Freedom Induction Cooktop, however, will heat up cookware placed anywhere on its surface. Not only that, but the "active" part of the cooktop will conform to the footprint of whatever size or shape of cookware is used.

The device incorporates 48 separate three-inch (7.6 cm) induction heating elements on what is claimed to be "the largest cooking surface in the industry," and is able to detect the presence and shape of cooking vessels that are placed upon them. Using the 6.5-inch color touchscreen control panel, users can then stipulate the power setting (from 15 to 4,600 watts) and cooking time for each detected piece of cookware. Even if a pot or pan is moved, its settings will follow it to its new location on the ceramic glass surface.

This approach is said to result in 63 percent more effective cooking area than induction cooktops with predefined heating areas. As with those conventional induction cooktops, its surface stays cool to the touch when operating.

The Freedom was publicly demonstrated for the first time yesterday, at CES in Las Vegas. It should be available by this July, at a suggested retail price of US$4,949.

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