Thanks to solid state storage technology and super-efficient chips, our laptops are thinner than ever before. Why can’t the same be said for the enormous laptop chargers we have to lug around? Meet the Dart, a 65-watt laptop charger built with MIT technology that is up to four times smaller and six times lighter than current chargers.
No one wants to make a bulky laptop charger, of course. In fact, companies like Apple would kill to include smaller chargers with their laptops. The problem, though, is that a charger must first convert electricity from a wall socket into a current and voltage your computer can use, one small sip at a time, in a process called a switching cycle. This is accomplished by the bulkiest part of a laptop charger, the power brick. And unfortunately, there are physical limitations on how small a power brick can be.
Simply put, inside every power brick are two coils of wire that convert electricity from a wall socket into energy your computer can use. The more power your gadget draws, the larger these spools of wire need to be to convert correctly. This is why a phone charger is so much smaller than a laptop charger, and why the charger for an Xbox is even larger than that. In addition, the conversion process wastes electricity, which turns into heat. That means the more power you’re drawing, the more room a power brick needs inside for the heat to dissipate, preventing it from melting into a puddle of plastic and copper goo.
The Dart, created by MIT spinout FINSix, gets away with being small thanks to some patented MIT technology called “very high frequency power conversion,” which reduces how much energy gets wasted in the form of heat. This allows a Dart charger to ditch the bulk associated with dissipating heat seen in other models, while also leaving enough room to accommodate a built-in USB 2.1 port, meaning the Dart can charge a laptop and mobile device simultaneously.
The Dart is clever technology, wrapped up in a colorful, eye-popping design. Now on Kickstarter and shipping this November, you can now pre-order a Dart for any non-Apple laptop for just $89. If you’re a Mac owner, though, it will cost considerably more, due to the fact that Apple is so protective of their proprietary (and extremely well-patented) MagSafe charging technology. Dart’s creators at FINSix had to purchase an off-the-shelf Apple charger and splice it onto a Dart to avoid being sued. This version of the Dart will cost $168.
Fingers crossed that FINSix starts licensing this technology to everyone. If it works as well as they say, Dart’s technology could make bulky power bricks a thing of the past.