Radical quantum breakthrough can charge batteries in an instant

Batteries based on the wave-like nature of charged particles could revolutionize energy storage, potentially cramming more power faster than conventional electrochemical cells could ever hope to do.

A new protocol, developed by a team of physicists from National Cheng Kung University, could transform the basic principles of a fast-charging quantum battery into a practical system, demonstrating how a battery’s superposition can be used to store energy quickly and efficiently .

Fundamental to quantum physics is the principle that all pieces of matter have a wave-like identity that propagates through space and time.

As counterintuitive as it is to our experience of reality, these waves represent the properties of an object – be it an electron, a molecule, a cat or an entire planet – as a spectrum of possibilities that becomes its superposition named.

In recent years, researchers have wondered whether one or more objects in a superposition have something in common with the chaotic rustling and bouncing of heated material in an engine. Tapping into this quantum phenomenon could even provide new ways to transfer and retain energy.

The concept is a nice idea, but turning the theory behind quantum heat engines into a working device requires identifying suitable processes that don’t waste a lot of energy.

The researchers experimentally evaluated two approaches to using the superposition of a particle to charge a hypothetical quantum battery to determine whether the fuzzy state indeed transfers energy.

Instead of an actual battery, the team simply used a trapped ion in a superposition state known as a qubit, which can gain energy as it passes through a reflective space that limits the types of waves that pass through it.

By sending the ion through a device that split the wave into two beams, the team compared the battery’s ability to store energy as separated waves passed through multiple entry points into a single cavity, and then into multiple cavities.

diagram of the quantum battery charging experiment
A qubit passing through a beam splitter enters via multiple pathways into (a) multiple ‘charging’ cavities, and (b) a single ‘charging’ cavity. (Po-Rong et al., Physical Assessment Letters2024)

Not only did they discover that the superposition of the ion allows for truly efficient charging, they also discovered that the ‘many doorways, one room’ approach caused an interference effect that could theoretically lead to what they call a ‘perfect charging phenomenon’, which allows a complete conversion. of stored energy to operate from the quantum battery at any point in the charging process.

They also showed that the process is scalable, with the interference effect persisting even when more than one qubit is sent through the cavity.

By running the process on the IBM Quantum Platform and IonQ’s quantum hardware, the team demonstrated a proof-of-concept for their protocol, showing that a similar system could have the potential to deliver an energy-effective way to quickly charge and extract energy from a quantum system.

While a qubit can simulate fundamental physics, new methods are needed to convert the protocol into something more practical and battery-like, meaning it will be a while before you can charge your electric moped on the fly.

Yet the experiment shows that there is nothing in the laws of physics that says we cannot exploit the quantum landscape for long-term, fast-charging energy storage.

As the world turns away from fossil fuels and increasingly seeks ways to store electrical energy generated by renewable sources, rugged batteries that can quickly absorb and retain significant amounts of energy will become increasingly important.

This research was published in Physical assessment examination.

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