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Future smartphones could be charged by freakin’ lasers

Most modern smartphones have access to wireless charging solutions. Heck, even Apple jumped on the cable-free bandwagon with the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.

However, even with wireless charging pads now commonplace on many desks, they still require a mobile device to be placed in a relatively precise location in order to replenish the battery.

Researchers at the University of Washington are hoping to change that with a new system that can charge a phone from across a room, using laser beams.

They mounted a thin power cell to the back of a smartphone and used the lasers to charge the battery as fast as a USB charger.

Related: What is Apple AirPad?

The range is currently about 14-feet, but it can be extended to 40 feet away. That means the ability to place the device anywhere on a table or counter-top surface.

The researchers say the system is perfectly safe, with the beam terminating before humans come into contact with it. There’s also a flat-plate heatsink on the phone in order to dissipate heat.

“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,” said associate professor Shyam Gollakota.

“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.”

The red beams you see in the images are just for show. In application, they’re invisible.

Obviously it isn’t a solution that’s ready for Prime Time, but the idea of having your phone charge wherever you place it on a surface is definitely appealing.

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