A new technology to speed up the charging of electric cars

Whether it is photovoltaics or fusion, sooner or later, human civilization will have to turn to renewable energies. This is deemed inevitable given humanity’s ever-increasing energy needs and the finite nature of fossil fuels. Thus, much research has been carried out in order to develop alternative energy sources, most of which use electricity as the main energy carrier. The significant R&D in renewable energy has been accompanied by incremental societal changes as the world adopts new products and appliances powered by renewable energy. The most striking change of recent times is the rapid adoption of electric vehicles. While they were barely seen on the roads 10 years ago, today millions of electric cars are sold each year. The electric car market is one of the fastest growing sectors, and it helped propel Elon Musk to the rank of richest man in the world.

Unlike traditional cars which derive their energy from the combustion of hydrocarbons, electric vehicles use batteries as a means of storing their energy. For a long time, batteries had a much lower energy density than those offered by hydrocarbons, which resulted in very short ranges of the first electric vehicles. However, the progressive improvement in battery technologies has finally brought the ranges of electric cars to acceptable levels compared to gasoline-powered cars. It’s no understatement that improving battery storage technology was one of the major technical bottlenecks that needed to be addressed in order to start the current electric vehicle revolution.

However, despite great improvements in battery technology, consumers of electric vehicles today face another challenge: slow battery charging speeds. Currently, cars take around 10 hours to fully charge at home. Even the fastest superchargers at charging stations require up to 20-40 minutes to fully charge vehicles. This creates additional costs and inconvenience for customers.

To solve this problem, scientists searched for answers in the mysterious field of quantum physics. Their research led to the discovery that quantum technologies could promise new mechanisms to charge batteries at a faster rate. Such a “quantum battery” concept was first proposed in a seminal paper published by Alicki and Fannes in 2012. It has been theorized that quantum resources, such as entanglement, can be used to dramatically speed up the process charging the battery by charging all the cells inside. drums simultaneously collectively.

This is particularly interesting because modern large capacity batteries can contain many cells. Such a collective charge is not possible in conventional batteries, where the cells are charged in parallel independently of each other. The advantage of this collective charge over the parallel charge can be measured by the ratio called the “quantum charge advantage”. Later, around the year 2017, it was noticed that there may be two possible sources behind this quantum advantage – namely the “global operation” (in which all cells talk to all others simultaneously, i.e. i.e. “all seated at one table”) and “all-to-all coupling” (each cell can talk to each other, but only one cell, i.e. “many talks, but each talk has only two participants”). However, it is unclear whether these two sources are necessary and whether there are limits to the charging speed that can be achieved.

Recently, scientists from the Center for Theoretical Physics of Complex Systems at the Institute for Basic Sciences (IBS) have taken these questions further. The article, which was chosen as an “Editor’s Suggestion” in the journal Physical examination letters, showed that all-to-all coupling is irrelevant in quantum batteries and that the presence of global operations is the only ingredient of quantum advantage. The group went further to identify the exact source of this advantage while ruling out any other possibility and even provided an explicit way of designing such batteries.

Additionally, the group was able to accurately quantify the charging speed that can be achieved in this scheme. While the maximum charge rate increases linearly with the number of cells in conventional batteries, the study showed that quantum batteries using global operation can achieve quadratic scaling of charge rate. To illustrate this, consider a typical electric vehicle with a battery that contains about 200 cells. Using this quantum charge would result in a 200x speedup compared to conventional batteries, meaning that at home the charging time would be reduced from 10 hours to around 3 minutes. In high-speed charging stations, the charging time would drop from 30 minutes to a few seconds.

The researchers say the consequences can be far-reaching, and the implications of quantum charging can go far beyond electric cars and consumer electronics. For example, it could find key uses in future fusion power plants, which require large amounts of energy to be charged and discharged in an instant. Of course, quantum technologies are still in their infancy and there is still a long way to go before these methods can be implemented in practice. Research findings like these, however, create a promising direction and can spur funding agencies and companies to invest more in these technologies. If used, it is believed that quantum batteries would completely revolutionize the way we use energy and bring us closer to our sustainable future.

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Materials provided by Institute of Basic Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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