New technology will shrink laptop power bricks to a quarter of current size

A MIT spinout company, FINsix, has developed a power adapter designed for laptops that is around 25% smaller than the current units used. The technology has been shrunk by using a novel method of utilizing very-high frequency power-conversion that means the adapter can transfer power through to the battery over 1,000 times faster.

Phys.org also reported how the unit is more efficient too, as power is delivered more often and in smaller chunks. The increased frequency means that less energy has to be stored temporarily in inductors and capacitors within the adaptor meaning reduced size. The main bulk of current power units comes from the large numbers of capacitors within, according to co-founder Anthony Sagneri. He explained

"If you can increase that switching frequency, you can reduce the amount of energy that you have to store temporarily in the inductors and capacitors - which make up the bulk size and weight of power bricks - during the conversion process, and that yields reduced size."

Called the Dart, not only is the device much smaller than existing adapters at around 2.5 cubic inches but it is also just one-sixth the weight at 2 ounces. You certainly won't be able to apply the popular 'power brick' term to this as it is only slightly larger in terms of overall size than a standard plug. It could well become the next best thing to the wireless charging found on some smartphone models, such as the majority of Nokia's Lumia range.

Rated at 65-watts, the Dart is suitable for charging the vast majority of laptops, smartphones and tablets. FINsix is aiming to ship the first 4,500 units to the Kickstarter backers who made the project possible by November.

The company was founded by four MIT alumni - Vanessa Green, Anthony Sagneri, George Hwang and Justin Burkhart - and originally set out to shrink the power converters used with LED lights. After completing the AC-DC technology used with those, the company turned their attentions to laptop adapters and built the Dart shown today.

If the device is accepted by the manufacturers of the various items of gadgetry we use daily, then it could finally spell the end of lugging around a heavy, oddly-shaped power adapter with us all day. The device also allows for a bit more flair as it is available in many bright colors unlike the ubiquitous black found on today's 'bricks'. The company says it is ready for use with any laptop brand although pre-orders are currently closed until after the first batch is shipped.

Source: Phys.org via FINsix | Image via FINsix

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> The device also allows for a bit more flair as it is available in many bright colors unlike the ubiquitous black found on today's 'bricks'

Once it's small enough, why make it external at all? Why not strive to make it internal?

I suppose ease of replacement could be a reason...but then, you could make it easily accessible/removable like the battery. It'll make the laptop itself heavier (if ever so slightly), but you're carrying the power adapter anyway in your bag.

ir0nw0lf said,
Wouldn't there still be the [potential] issue of introducing +heat into the laptop in that case?

I'll grant you that. But, you'd think a power supply that's physically smaller wouldn't throw off as much heat.

Sraf said,
25% smaller than the current size is not "to a quarter of current size"

Yes. I think they mean "to" a quarter of the size, not "by" a quarter of the size. These guys only write English for a living so they're excused from understanding simple English sentence structures. Or as they say at Oxford University, WTF.

Sraf said,
25% smaller than the current size is not "to a quarter of current size"

Source link is very clear that they're saying *to* a quarter of the current size. The photo and description certainly made me think it meant to 25% of current size, versus reduced *by* 25%, which made this article and title all the more confusing.

Yeah, the first line should read "A MIT spinout company, FINsix, has developed a power adapter designed for laptops that is around 75% smaller than the current units used."

Yeah, and the HUGE/HEAVY step down transformer that reduces the AC (mains) down to a
24 volt level, so the regulator can step it down to 12 volts or whatever the requirements
are.


The main bulk of current power units comes from the large numbers of capacitors within, according to co-founder Anthony Sagneri. He explained

naap51stang said,
Yeah, and the HUGE/HEAVY step down transformer that reduces the AC (mains) down to a 24 volt level

Most SMPS transformers are not huge or heavy, neither are the ones used in linear supplies like phone chargers. Look how small the transformer is in a mobile phone charger. That steps down from 240v to around 5v, then there's the rectifier diodes and capacitors which turn it into DC and smooth it.

In SMPS (switchmode) supplies the bulk of the weight and size is actually the heatsinks used to cool the Schottky rectifier diodes down, the ones in a Xbox 360 supply are HUGE and heavy! There are a lot of caps but the biggest one is the line filter one on the HV side. SMPS's are excessive for what they are. I work with them for a living and the amount of things that go wrong with them is ridiculous, they're more complex than they need to be.

Actual power electronics engineer, here.

Tidosho
Most SMPS transformers are not huge or heavy, neither are the ones used in linear supplies like phone chargers.

Cell phone chargers are not linear regulators. They're flybacks. That's a SMPS.

Tidosho said,
In SMPS (switchmode) supplies the bulk of the weight and size is actually the heatsinks used to cool the Schottky rectifier diodes down

These days, you can use synchronous rectifiers instead of the output rectifier. Costs a little more in semiconductors and drive circuitry, but you get dramatic cooling improvements due to Iout*rds,on generally being significantly less than the Vf of a diode.


Anyway, what's interesting about what they're talking about is that they're able to take the lower switching losses with newer semis, build a very HF resonant converter around it with air core magnetics, which eliminates magnetic core losses.

Man. I wouldn't want to be the guy doing the EMC design on that sucker...

Edited by Mordkanin, May 29 2014, 8:10pm :

Mordkanin said,

Cell phone chargers are not linear regulators. They're flybacks. That's a SMPS.

My mistake, I was typing too quick and didn't proof read. What I meant to say was "linear supplies like unregulated AC adapters", as they're the most common type of linear supply like the ones powering my wireless FM headphones.

Recent phone chargers are indeed SMPS, and quite cute ones too.

Mordkanin said,
Actual power electronics engineer, here.
Man. I wouldn't want to be the guy doing the EMC design on that sucker...

This. The main challenge now with the significantly faster switching frequency will be the emissions from the PSU.

Well this isn't the battery. It's just the big plug thing that goes in the wall. If they had the battery down to a quarter of their previous size, that would be a huge advancement.