Spain Introduces the World’s First Quantum Phase BatteryJuly 01, 2020 by Luke James
A team of researchers has unveiled what they claim to be the world’s first quantum phase battery described as a “key element for quantum technologies.”
By now, we’re no stranger to the quantum computing hype. When (or rather, if) they are successfully developed and deliver on their promised potential, quantum computers will be able to solve problems and challenges that would otherwise require hundreds or thousands or more years for current “classic” computer technology to solve.
In what could be a massive step for quantum computing, researchers from the University of the Basque County claim to have developed the world’s first quantum phase battery.
Quantum vs “Classic” Batteries
Today, batteries are ubiquitous, with lithium-ion batteries being the most common out of them, although alternatives do exist. These batteries convert chemical energy into a voltage that can provide power to an electronic circuit.
In contrast, quantum technologies feature circuits based on superconducting materials through which a current can flow without voltage, therefore negating the need for “classic” chemical batteries. In quantum technologies, the current is induced from a phase difference of the wave function of the quantum circuit related to the wave nature of matter.
A quantum device that can provide a persistent phase difference can be used as a quantum phase battery and induce supercurrents in a quantum circuit, powering it.
The first quantum phase battery, consisting of indium arsenide (InAs) nanowire in contact with aluminum superconducting leads. Image credited to Andrea Lorio
Building a Functional Quantum Phase Battery
This is what the researchers set out to achieve—creating such a quantum device—building on an idea first conceived in 2015 by Sebastian Bergeret from the Mesoscopic physics group at the Materials Physics Center. Along with Francesco Giazotto and Elia Strambini from the NEST-CNR Institute, Pisa claims to have built the world’s first functional quantum phase battery.
Bergeret and Tokatly’s idea, in short, involves a combination of superconducting and magnetic materials with an intrinsic relativistic effect known as spin-orbit coupling. On top of this idea, Giazotto and Strambini identified a suitable material combination that allowed them to fabricate their quantum phase battery.
Their quantum phase battery consists of an n-doped indium arsenide (InAs) nanowire, which forms the core of the cell, also known as “the pile,” and aluminum superconducting leads act as poles. The battery is charged by applying an external magnetic field, which can then be turned off.
If quantum batteries are ever to be realized, they could bring significant benefits over their chemical cousins. Among other things, quantum batteries could offer vastly better thermodynamic efficiency and ultra-fast charging times, making them perfect for next-gen applications like electric vehicles.