Quantum charging is the new technology capable of charging electric cars as rapidly as pumping gas. Quantum charging will minimize electric vehicles’ charging time from 10 hours to 3 minutes.
Whether it is fusion or photovoltaics, sooner or later, mankind must transition to renewable energies. This is considered unavoidable as the energy demands of humanity are ever-increasing and the nature of fossil fuels is limited.
As such, numerous studies have been undertaken so as to create substitute sources of energy, most of which use electricity as the core energy carrier. The widespread research and development in renewables have been coupled with steady societal changes as the world accepted new products and devices working on renewables.
The most remarkable change of recent times is the quick adoption of electric vehicles. While they were barely seen on the roads even a decade ago, millions of electric cars are currently being sold on an annual basis. The electric car market is one of the most swiftly growing sectors, and it helped push Elon Musk to become the world’s wealthiest man.
In contrast to conventional cars which derive energy from the burning of hydrocarbon fuels, electric vehicles depend on batteries as the storage source for their energy. For quite a while, batteries had a much lower energy density than those provided by hydrocarbons, which caused very low ranges in the initial electric vehicles.
Nevertheless, steady improvement in battery technologies finally enabled the drive ranges of electric cars to be within satisfactory levels in comparison to gasoline-combusting cars. It is no underestimation that upgrading to battery storage technology was one of the key technical holdups which had to be sorted so as to renew the present electric vehicle revolution.
However, in spite of the massive improvements in battery technology, present-day consumers of electric vehicles face another struggle — the slow speed of battery charging. At present, cars require around 10 hours to completely recharge at home. Even the most rapid superchargers at the charging stations necessitate up to 20-40 minutes to completely recharge the cars. This creates extra costs and inconvenience to the car owners.
To resolve this issue, researchers sought answers in the cryptic domain of quantum physics. Their hunt has resulted in the detection that quantum technologies may promise new mechanisms to charge batteries at a quicker rate.
The notion of “quantum battery” was first suggested in a seminal article published by Alicki and Fannes in 2012. It was hypothesized that quantum resources, like entanglement, can be used to greatly accelerate the battery charging method by charging all cells inside the battery concurrently in a collective way.
This is quite exciting as advanced large-capacity batteries can hold several cells. Such collective charging cannot be achieved in standard batteries, where the cells are charged in parallel individually. The benefit of this collective versus parallel charging can be assessed by the ratio known as the “quantum charging advantage.”
Later, in around 2017, it was observed that there can be two potential sources underlying this quantum benefit — specifically “global operation” (in which all the cells interact with all others concurrently, i.e., “all sitting at one table”) and “all-to-all coupling” (every cell can interact with every other, but a single cell, i.e., “many discussions, but every discussion has only two participants”).
However, it is indistinct whether these two sources are essential and whether there are any restrictions to the charging speed that can be accomplished.
In recent times, researchers from the Center for Theoretical Physics of Complex Systems within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) further investigated these questions. The article, which was selected as an “Editor’s Suggestion” in the journal Physical Review Letters, illustrated that all-to-all coupling is inapt in quantum batteries and that the presence of universal operations is the only element in the quantum advantage.
The team went on to highlight the precise source of this benefit while excluding any other likelihoods and even provided a clear way of engineering such batteries.
Furthermore, the team could precisely compute how much charging speed can be accomplished in this arrangement. While the maximum charging speed grows linearly with the number of cells in standard batteries, the study revealed that quantum batteries utilizing universal operation can accomplish quadratic scaling in charging speed.
A standard electric vehicle with a battery that holds around 200 cells was illustrated as an example. Using this quantum charging would result in a speedup that is 200 times more than standard batteries, which means that charging time at home would be minimized from 10 hours to around 3 minutes. At accelerated charging stations, the charge time would be minimized from 30 minutes to mere seconds.
Scientists state that consequences can be extensive and that the repercussions of quantum charging can extend beyond consumer electronics and electric cars. For example, it may find use in future fusion power plants, which necessitate large quantities of energy to be charged and discharged instantly.
Unquestionably, quantum technologies have a long way to go before these approaches can be executed in practice. Study findings such as these, however, create an encouraging direction and can incentivize the funding organizations and businesses to invest more in these technologies.
If utilized, it is said that quantum batteries would totally transform the way energy is used and push mankind a step closer to a sustainable future.
Gyhm, J-Y., et al. (2022) Quantum Charging Advantage Cannot Be Extensive Without Global Operations. Physical Review Letters. doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2108.02491.