It’s yet to be invented but it’s hard to imagine a more revolutionary advance in energy storage than a battery that never loses its charge.
The possibility came into vogue in 2019, with Canadian scientists proposing a shift away from lithium-ion cells, which rely on chemical reactions, to those energised using quantum mechanics.
The concept involves harnessing the power of “excitonic energy” or the state in which an electron absorbs sufficiently charged photons of light.
The problem, of course, is that it was – and continues to be – just an idea. Albeit it’s one that aspires to power up phones and laptops almost without leaking charge, to allow electric cars to go further and even to help launch space missions.
It’s also hoped the technology would be pollution-free and able to be charged in a fraction of the time thought possible.
However the reality of rapidly powerloading a quantum battery is now a step closer thanks to researchers at the University of Adelaide who’ve managed to successfully prove the associated theory of superabsorption.
“Quantum batteries, which use quantum mechanical principles to enhance their capabilities, require less charging time the bigger they get,” explains project leader Dr James Q Quach.
“It is theoretically possible that the charging power of quantum batteries increases faster than the size of the battery which could allow new ways to speed charging.”
To prove the concept of superabsorption, Dr Quach and his team built several wafer-like microcavities of different sizes containing different numbers of organic molecules, each charged using a laser.
“The active layer of the microcavity contains organic semiconductor materials that store the energy,” he said.
“Underlying the superabsorbing effect of quantum batteries is the idea that all the molecules act collectively through a property known as quantum superposition.
“As the microcavity size increased and the number of molecules increased, the charging time decreased.”
The breakthrough “marks a major milestone in the development of the quantum battery”, Dr Quach says.
By 2040, energy consumption is expected to have increased 28 per cent on 2015 levels, with the majority still derived from fossil fuels.
Yet a battery capable of harvesting and storing light energy simultaneously would provide a major cost reduction while reducing the unpredictability of energy from solar technologies.
A new vista in battery technology driven by the power of quantum mechanics could become a reality by applying the team’s work, says Adelaide University’s head of physics, Professor Peter Veitch.
“The concepts Dr Quach and his team have worked on open up the possibility of a new class of compact and powerful energy-storing devices,” he said.
Dr Quach’s findings have been published in the journal Science Advances.