A Quantum Principle Could Change Wireless Charging Technology Forever

First, a LED bulb. Next, your electric car?

7. 6. 17 by Tom Ward
Daniel Jędzura/Adobe Stock

A Better Range

While wireless charging is an improvement over a mess of entangled wires, the technology does not solve the issue of mobility — your phone still needs to remain in one place to charge. This could change with the development of a new type of charging.

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Current wireless charging devices operate using an electromagnetic field. For the power transfer between the charger and the device to remain optimal, the distance between the two must remain fixed. However, a team out of Stanford has created a charger that can transfer power to moving devices up to a meter away. Their research has been published in Nature.

The system uses a quantum mechanical principle called parity-time symmetry. Essentially, this means their charger can automatically adjust its power flow depending on the situation. The researchers demonstrated their device using an LED bulb. When the bulb moved further away, the distance was mitigated by the charger. This allowed the bulb to retain its brightness despite the motion.

Power Everywhere

Though this study only demonstrates the technology at a minor level, if scalable, it could essentially enable us to charge devices at the optimum rate despite a varying distance. This has exciting applications in a number of fields beyond just allowing you to comfortably use your phone while charging it.

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Theoretically, it could revolutionize our ability to wirelessly charge electric vehicles as charging devices could be built into roads to charge the EVs as they drive past. The study also cites the potential to charge medical implants more efficiently. These devices are all implanted at slightly different depths, which can make charging them using existing technology complicated. This new technology would give patients the ability to move around while charging, as well.

While the team’s technology is still in its nascent stages and has only charged a single moving LED so far, the concept has the potential to radically change how we power our lives in the future. Now, it’s just a matter of scaling it up.


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