Tee-mobile: the nanolaser technology set to print tiny phones into clothing

Mobile phones shrank in size for more than 20 years until we started to need bigger screens, but now a group of scientists are working on technology that could make phones so small they would be able to be printed onto clothing.

Researchers from Monash University, Australia, are investigating ‘spaser’ technology that will allow the tiny printing to take place.

The technology means that mobile phones could become so small, efficient and flexible they could be printed.

This doesn’t take into account the user experience, or what would happen when clothes are needed to be washed, but the shows how minute the technology could be in the future.

A spaser is a nanoscale laser, or nanolaser, that emits light through the vibrations of free electrons, rather than the space-consuming processes in traditional lasers.

The research used grapheme and carbon nanotubes, which are stronger than steel and can conduct heat and electricity better than copper.

Their research showed for the first time that graphene and carbon nanotubes can interact and transfer energy to each other through light – this makes them idea for applications such as computer chips.

“There is the possibility that in the future an extremely thin mobile phone could be printed on clothing.”

Chanaka Rupasinghe, a PhD student and the lead researcher of the project, said the new spaser would offer new possibilities compared to those that have previously been invented.

“Other spasers designed to date are made of gold or silver nanoparticles and semiconductor quantum dots while our device would be comprised of a graphene resonator and a carbon nanotube gain element,” Chanaka said.

“The use of carbon means our spaser would be more robust and flexible, would operate at high temperatures, and be eco-friendly. Because of these properties, there is the possibility that in the future an extremely thin mobile phone could be printed on clothing.”


The researchers say spaser-based devices can be used as an alternative to current transistor-based devices such as microprocessors, memory and displays to overcoming the problems with miniaturising and bandwidth limitations.

The term spaser, which stands for ‘surface plasmon amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’ was first used by David Bergman and Mark Stockman in 2003.

Chanaka said a spaser generated high-intensity electric fields concentrated into a nanoscale space.

The researcher added: “Graphene and carbon nanotubes can be used in applications where you need strong, lightweight, conducting, and thermally stable materials due to their outstanding mechanical, electrical and optical properties.

They have been tested as nanoscale antennas, electric conductors and waveguides.”

Featured image courtesy of Adam Russel via Flickr/creative commons 

Image 2 courtesy of Monash University

Wi-Power: Wireless charging now possible at a distance of five metres

The ability to wirelessly charge devices is now available at a distance of five metres thanks to researchers who have extended the maximum possible range.

The technology, which has been developed by researchers in Korea, could lead to ‘Wi-Power zones’ in the future according to one member of the team behind the hardware.

It is hoped these zones could become as popular as Wi-Fi points have for internet access.

Professor Chun T Rim, from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, said the team’s work can charge 40 smartphones at once – with a power source that’s five metres away.

If successfully commercialised, it will lead to wireless charging zones being installed around cities and in shops.

The latest developments will certainly attract the attention of mobile phone manufactures who have been experimenting with wireless charging for some time now – there are more than 60 types of phones that use Qi wireless charging at present.

However wireless charging could be used to power almost any electronic device once the technology has been developed further.

Professor Rim said: “Our technology proved the possibility of a new remote power delivery mechanism that has never been tried at such a long distance.

“Although the long-range wireless power transfer is still in an early stage of commercialisation and quite costly to implement, we believe that this is the right direction for electric power to be supplied in the future.”

The professor added: “Just like we see Wi-Fi zones everywhere today, we will eventually have many Wi-Power zones at such places as restaurants and streets that provide electric power wirelessly to electronic devices.

“We will use all the devices anywhere without tangled wires attached and anytime without worrying about charging their batteries.”


The researchers at the Korean institute have built upon work by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which used a Coupled Magnetic Resonance System (CMRS) to transfer energy wirelessly. They developed a system where the coil system is simplified and also reduced in size.

In the new set-up, called Dipole Coil Resonant System (DCRS), two coils are employed to solve the problems in the previous system. The new primary coil induces a magnetic field and a secondary coil is to receive electric power.

Tests show that under the operation of 20kHzm, the maximum output power was 1,403w at a distance of 3 metres. While at five metres the power output was 209w.

The new developments are also smaller than previous models and at present are three metres in length, 10cm in width and 20cm in height. The researchers say the technology is scalable.

Video and image three courtesy of KAIST.