New wireless charging tech juices your phone from across the room using lasers

charging phone using lasers uwashington wireless laser 2017 12 20 0128
University of Washington
University of Washington

Today’s wireless charging tech may be called “wireless” charging, but it’s not exactly what people think of when they imagine charging their phones without the indignity of having to plug them in. Wireless charging tech of the kind employed by Apple, Samsung, and other device makers still involves plugging in a charging pad and putting your phone on it; it just means you don’t have to directly attach your phone.

Engineers at the University of Washington may now have developed the kind of long-range smartphone wireless charging folks have been longing for, and like the a lot of attention-grabbing tech innovations, it involves a laser. The result looks like the world’s most useful James Bond deathtrap.

As detailed in a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable & Ubiquitous Technologies, the tech involves firing a narrow, invisible beam from a laser emitter, which can deliver a charge to a smartphone sitting on the other side of the room. This is achieved by mounting a thin power cell to the back of a smartphone, which enables it to absorb power from the laser. According to the team, the laser tech is as efficient for charging as plugging your smartphone charger into a USB port.

“The advantage to our technique is that it can work at much longer ranges than the near field wireless charging solutions built into phones,” Vikram Iyer, a graduate student in Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington, told Digital Trends. “These chargers only work at ranges of a few centimeters. In contrast, our system works at ranges of a few meters or more. We chose lasers for our approach because they provide a focused beam of energy. Doing this with radio waves is much more inefficient because radio waves spread out significantly in space, requiring a very high transmit power to receive enough to charge a phone.”

The team’s laser charging technology also features all-important safety precautions. These include the addition of a metal, flat-plate heatsink on the smartphone which dissipates excess heat from the laser, as well as a method of shutting off the laser if a person moves into its path. This involves using “guard beams” which don’t deliver charge, but monitor movement, and can shut off the charging laser immediately if a human body is detected.

“What we’ve demonstrated here is a first proof of concept,” Iyer continued. “We’re looking at methods of improving things like the range and form factor of our current prototype. As far as commercialization, we’re currently exploring options.”

Mobile

Want more power, but faster? This new charging tech claims it can deliver

Chunky power bricks and slow charging could be a thing of the past with GaNFast technology from Navitas Semiconductors. By using an alternative to silicon, GaNFast reduces power consumption and boosts output.
Mobile

Razer’s Wireless Charger will turn your desk into gamer heaven

The Razer Wireless Charger adds colorful flair to your desk or bedside table. It works with any phone that supports Qi wireless charging -- with some quirks -- but is it worth the high price tag? We take a look.
Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.
Apple

Rumors say Apple's AirPower wireless charger may finally be in production

At its September event in 2018, Apple unveiled the AirPower, a new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.