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Charge your phone with lasers? It’s not that scary

Lasers charging smartphone
A smartphone is powered up using a laser-based charging system. The charging laser and guard lasers are normally invisible to the human eye, but red beams have been inserted in place of the guard beams for demonstration purposes. (University of Washington Photo / Mark Stone)technol

Engineers at the University of Washington have demonstrated that it’s possible to charge up your smartphone using laser beams.

Perhaps the deeper question is, why?

If laser charging can be conducted quickly and safely, that would mark a big step toward freeing up mobile devices ranging from phones and tablets to drones and laptops.

The beaming system is described in a paper published online in the Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies. It can deliver a steady 2 watts of power to a 15-square-inch area from a distance of 14 feet, or from up to 40 feet away with further modifications.

“The beam delivers charge as quickly as plugging in your smartphone to a USB port,” co-lead author Elyas Bayati, a UW doctoral student in electrical engineering, said today in a news release. “But instead of plugging your phone in, you simply place it on a table.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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