Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Aquila

Could lasers be used to build an 'internet of energy'?

Agriculture & Energy

One company hopes to ease the energy transition by making electricity transmission wireless

Spotted: Electricity and its infrastructure have long been a staple of the developed world, with countries rolling out millions of kilometres of electrical cables over the last century to meet growing energy demand. As these grids age and the world works to transition to green energy, however, it’s estimated that 80 million kilometres of power lines will need to be added or replaced by 2040 to integrate renewable sources and ensure energy security. To do that will require huge amounts of money and manpower – what if there was another way?

One Australian company, Aquila, is aiming to do away with power lines altogether by using lasers to power a system of wireless electricity. The startup’s hope is to free energy from the static and rigid infrastructure of wires, creating what it calls an ‘internet of energy’.

Lasers themselves are a separate form of energy unit. Instead of electrical potential, their potential lies in the energy carried by concentrated laser beams. These beams can be fired at specialised solar cells attached to an electrical component that then powers it, rather than needing a conventional wired charger.

While the technology seems like science fiction, the concept has already been applied to drones in Aquila’s first product “Lightway”. The drones are essentially capable of flying in perpetuity due to them being “charged” mid-flight via their specialised solar cells and a ground-based, renewably powered module that fires the laser.

This is the starting point for the company and because the technology would mean drones don’t need to be brought back to the ground to charge, it could revolutionise the efficiency of things like search and rescue missions, asset management, coastal surveillance, and transport. Moving forward, the same system could be used to charge larger-scale electric planes and other vehicles, as well as satellites. Ultimately, the goal is to create a global energy network based on light that would allow electricity to be ‘beamed’ to wherever it’s needed.

Last year, the company raised AU$3 million (around €1.8 million) in a seed funding round led by Blackbird, which is being used to help commercialise the technology.

Springwise has also spotted other innovations that could revitalise the ageing global energy grid, including tunnel-digging robots and superconducting cables.

Written By: Archie Cox




Download PDF