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.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.


These sensors could widen Internet of Things

Skin sensor patch
This flexible epidermal patch prototype successfully transmitted information across a 3,300-square-foot atrium. Such a patch could be used to collect and wirelessly transmit medical data. (University of Washington Photo / Dennis Wise)

Researchers at the University of Washington have been working for years on a radio backscatter system that can monitor ultra-low-power sensors wirelessly, and now they’ve fine-tuned the system to pick up signals from more than a mile away.

They say the technology could lead to “smart” contact lenses and skin patches that can track your vital signs and send in the data for instant medical analysis.

And that’s not all: Long-range backscatter sensors might well open up whole new frontiers for the Internet of Things.

“People have been talking about embedding connectivity into everyday objects such as laundry detergent, paper towels and coffee cups for years, but the problem is the cost and power consumption to achieve this,” Vamsi Talla, chief technology officer of Jeeva Wireless, said today in a UW news release. “This is the first wireless system that can inject connectivity into any device with very minimal cost.”

Jeeva Wireless, which was founded by Talla and other UW researchers, is aiming to commercialize the technology within the next few months.

Get the full story on GeekWire.