Lasers could power computers wirelessly

A thin beam of invisible laser light has been used to safely charge a smartphone across a room. The experiment by researchers at the Univeristy of Washington lends credence to the futuristic idea that one day all computers could operate without any plugs or wires — that’s both for data and power.

The revolutionary smartphone-charging laser system, which functions from up to 40 feet away, detects devices through inaudible acoustic chirps, according to its desginers at the university. It then zaps a couple watts of power at them using laser beams. Importantly, it does it safely and is potentially scalable to computers.

If one were to add to this news the speculation that there may soon be a shift away from traditional Ethernet to 5G wireless for infinitely fatter and faster data networks, then conceivably the end of all physical connections between computers may become a reality in the not-too-distant future.

Charging over the air, called Wireless Power Transfer (WPT), is in use now at short ranges, using coils and magnetic fields. We see WPT in inductive consumer charging systems such as toothbrushes and smartphones, for example.

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