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Prototype laser system can charge a smartphone from across the room

By Shawn Knight ยท 12 replies
Feb 21, 2018
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  1. Engineers at the University of Washington have demonstrated the ability to charge a smartphone wireless from across a room using a laser. It’s far from a production-ready solution, mind you, but it could potentially steer the industry in the direction of true, contactless wireless charging.

    The system, outlined in a paper published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable & Ubiquitous Technologies, utilizes a laser emitter configured to produce a focused beam in the near-infrared spectrum that’s capable of delivering a steady 2W of power from a distance of up to 4.3 meters, or around 14 feet, to a smartphone equipped with a power cell on its back.

    The beam’s radius at that distance is around 15 square inches although it can be modified to cover an area of up to 3.25 feet at a distance of nearly 40 feet.

    Safety was the team’s primary focus, said co-author Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor at the UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

    The laser charging system features a rapid-response safety mechanism that shuts off the beam if an object – such as a person – gets in its path. These harmless “guard beams” physically surround the charging beam and serve as a sensor. When an object triggers the guard beams, they deploy a shutter to block the charging beam. It all happens faster than the fastest motions of the human body.

    Future iterations could reduce the response time down to nanoseconds, said co-author Arka Majumdar.

    The charging and guard lasers are invisible to the human eye but have been colored red for demonstration purposes.

    Engineers also outfitted the phone with thin strips of aluminum that help dissipate excess heat from the laser. They even used some of the heat to help charge the phone through the use of a small thermoelectric generator.

    Again, it’s far from a consumer-ready solution but hints at what might be possible in the not-too-distant future.

    Images courtesy Mark Stone, University of Washington

    Permalink to story.

     
  2. TheBigT42

    TheBigT42 TS Maniac Posts: 281   +167

    All I ask for is sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads.
     
    OutlawCecil and Lounds like this.
  3. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Maniac Posts: 258   +173

    You'll know if someone blocked your charge if they are cut in half and set on fire.
     
  4. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Maniac Posts: 258   +173

    You know how in sci-fi games there's usually some type of laser or power delivery system you have to cut off and if you get near it and touch it you die?

    Yeah well...this is basically that.
     
    JaredTheDragon likes this.
  5. Catweazle

    Catweazle TS Enthusiast Posts: 48   +36

    Seems a little over the top. Is it really that bothersome to simply plug your phone into a USB port or wall socket and charge it?
     
    Reachable and Uncle Al like this.
  6. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,425   +2,885

    Which begs the age old antidote "just because we can, doesn't mean we should" .....
     
    trparky likes this.
  7. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 10,789   +4,594

    Only if the safety malfunctions and allows the charging beam to stay on. Even then I'm not sure of the extent to the amount of damage. Probably at most get a burn.
     
  8. ChrisH1

    ChrisH1 TS Addict Posts: 121   +63

    Because that's sooo much better than having to walk across the room and plug it into a charger with a wire, like some sort of third world savage ...
     
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  9. trparky

    trparky TS Evangelist Posts: 379   +264

    I bet it will have a big warning sticker... Don't look at the laser!!!
     
  10. senketsu

    senketsu TS Guru Posts: 819   +551

    You know every little kid is going to rush over and look directly at the laser so it's a good thing a shutter can work so fast. Plus if you have ever had a cat and this laser moves at all...attack!
     
  11. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 10,789   +4,594

    Is there any part of this laser visible to the eye? The article says it is invisible, so it will attract less attention to kids and animals.
     
  12. JaredTheDragon

    JaredTheDragon TS Guru Posts: 453   +300

    A laser is just photons spun-up by other photons. Electricity is also just photons, so this seems like a no-brainer. More efficient tech is what happens when we discard the electron as the fundamental particle.
     
  13. senketsu

    senketsu TS Guru Posts: 819   +551

    sorry, reading fail, fooled by the photo "The charging and guard lasers are invisible to the human eye but have been colored red for demonstration purposes"
     

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