Science Scope

Metamaterials could power cell phones, computers without wires

Posting in Energy

A new kind of metamaterial might be used to charge laptops and cell phones (and even cars) wirelessly.

These days, we almost need another bag just to drag wires to charge up our laptops, cell phones, and electric vehicles. But it might not be this way for long: Researchers at Duke University think a new man-made material could help us charge our electronics wirelessly.

“We currently have the ability to transmit small amounts of power over short distances, such as in radio frequency identification (RFID) devices,” Yaroslav Urzhumov, a professor at Duke, said in a statement.

If lasers or microwaves were used to transmit power, it would probably burn through anything it touches, according to a Duke news release. But if metameterials were used, then it could theoretically increase the power transmitted and generate enough charge to power up consumer electronics.

Yes, Harry Potter fans, the material is the same stuff scientists are using for invisibility cloaks. However, this comes as no surprise since the same Duke group showed that metamaterials could be used as cloaks.

In this case, the metamaterial lens could be made to suit each type of device. The idea is to place the metamaterial between the energy source and the power hungry device, so it can refocus the energy to minimize the power lost during transmission.

Again, this is all theoretical. But if it works, then it would definitely lighten the load if phones and even bigger objects like cars could be charged this way.

[Duke University via PopSci]

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure