A group of engineers from the University of Washington have created a device to charge phones from across the room using cool laser beams. It charges the phone as fast as USB chargers do while delivering retroreflectors of up to 40 feet from the charging unit to the phone’s location.
Many people have been customarily keeping their phones plugged to keep them charge while they were sleeping. While many experts have advised against this dangerous habit due to the dangers of overheated batteries, people continue to do so.
In China, a 12-year-old kid was reportedly left with severed right index and blinded right eye when his overcharged phone exploded. According to several reports, the boy was reaching for his phone when it exploded. The blast blew off his right index while sharp pieces flew into his face and damaged his right eyeballs.
Similar tragedy will soon be prevented if the invention from the engineers at the University of Washington lands in the market. The device has safety features built in, particularly a heatsink that dissipates the heat and automatically shuts off when a human moves into the beam’s path.
The retroreflectors act as guard beams and acts faster than humans’ quickest motions because the beams are reflected back to the emitter at the speed of light, the engineers explained of their invention. When this guard beam is interrupted by the movement of a person, the emitter detects the slightest movement within a fraction of a second and deploys a shutter to block the charging beam before the person can even come in contact with it.
The features of the device were details in a paper published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable & Uniquitous Technologies.
Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor in the university’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, explained that safety is their primary focus when designing the tool. “We have designed, constructed and tested this laser-based charging system with a rapid-response safety mechanism, which ensures that the laser emitter will terminate the charging beam before a person comes into the path of the laser,” he explained.
“In addition to the safety mechanism that quickly terminates the charging beam, our platform includes a heatsink to dissipate excess heat generated by the charging beam,” said co-author Arka Majumdar, a UW assistant professor of physics and electrical engineering. “These features give our wireless charging system the robust safety standards needed to apply it to a variety of commercial and home settings,” he further assured.