ITU suggests replaceable cables for power supplies
Standards body hopes to reduce e-waste, match connectors with voltages
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has kicked off its Green Standards Week with a proposal for the world to standardise the power supply units (PSUs) provided with devices like mobile phones and laptop computers.
One of the standards the ITU proposes would see the ubiquitous devices equipped with replaceable cables, because after testing more than 300 PSUs the organisation found the main reason for their failure “is a weak point where the low-voltage cable is connected to the power supply.”
The idea for replaceable cables may seem trivial until you consider the ITU's estimates that four billion PSUs will be summoned into existence this year alone and will collectively weigh one million tons. The organisation predicts that PSU numbers will grow by 12 per cent a year for the foreseeable future. After testing 300 PSUs the Union also found that “The main cause of failure in all power supplies ” A new design standard featuring “a detachable, replaceable cable on the low-voltage side of the device” is therefore recommended as a way to avoid a lot of PSU purchases, saving rather a lot of landfill along the way.
That's not all the ITU wants. Indeed, the organisation has managed to crank out 105 pages on the topic of An energy-aware survey on ICT device power supplies (PDF) that recommends proper standards be developed to replace the de facto standards currently in force.
The standards the ITU wants will, it says, reduce the materials required to build a PSU by 30% and, by reducing obsolescence of PSUs, prevent 300,000 tons of discarded power supplies becoming e-waste each year.
The ideas the ITU thinks will help to achieve that outcome include:
- New connectors sized by output voltages, to help punters understand which PSU powers different devices;
- More accurate labelling of PSUs' output;
- Smaller size and lighter weights, to reduce resource use, shipping costs and improve products for users;
- Increased power efficiency, as a response to ITU testing that found many PSUs provide too much power or continue to power devices when they are switched off;
- Standardized plugs with two prongs only.
Just where these ideas go from here is not clear, as the ITU has no power to compel manufacturers to adopt a new standard. Indeed, the report politely asks manufacturers to consider the issues it raises. The organisation can, however, point to some success from its past campaign for a standard mobile phone charger. ®
An awesome idea!
I have a couple of large boxes of old power supplies, from discarded/broken/obsolete electronics gear. Whenever I find a need for a replacement power supply, or some potential application for a voltage adapter/power brick, I shuffle thru the boxes and see if something there will do the job. This usually entails getting out the soldering iron, and fitting a different tip. Way better to have standardized tails on the units, for sure!
What we need now is the EU to take the initiative and mandate it.
Of course there'll always be an worm in the Apple (pun intended) - where a manufacturer insists on a proprietary standard. See the new iPhone for instance......
Re: Obvious answer.
Unfortunately, probably only obvious if you don't design power supplies.
At 5 V you need 20 Amps for 100 Watts - which is why laptop supplies are usually around 19 V so that you can use nice thin, flexible cables.
There's a strong case to have a selection of voltages, say 5 V, 12 V and 20 V to cater for requirements between 10 W, 25 W and 100 W with standardised plugs & sockets. Then you'd probably get the likes of MK building SMPSs into 13 Amp mains power sockets and we could all begin to forget about wall warts.
I've half a dozen PSU's kicking around in a big box of cables, which get sorted through when I decide to fire up an old laptop. Cue 10 minutes of connector roulette as each laptop/device has it's own proprietary connector, things would be a hell of a lot more convenient with just a single PSU and a manufacturer-specific cable - as with the above poster, I don't expect *all* manufacturers to enjoy the taste of the ITU's fruit (ahem) but I expect any intelligent consumer will adjust their purchases accordingly.
Beer for the ITU finally doing something about yet another proprietary mess.
Loupes, loops, and RF noise
All part of sensible product design. For many years -- a couple of dozen, anyway -- leading Japanese Amateur Radio makers used the same 6-pin power connectors for HF radio transceivers..Granted, "wall warts" don't have to deliver 25 Amperes, it'd be d*mned useful not to need a jewelers loupe* to see what polarity and voltage thw PS label shows. *(And how about letters more than 0.3mm tall?)
I'd insist, however, with efficiency standards now pretty much mandating switch-mode power supplies, that RF emission (>9 KHz) be kept well below the EN 55022 and FCC Part 15 limits; what is the sense of a power supply that renders a radio it powers (and others nearby) unable to hear radio stations?
For examples of testing, limits and design tips see www.analogzone.com/pwrt0628.pdf
forget the itu
This needs to be mandated by the EU.
there's no need for all the different voltages we have now just have 2 or 3. Small devices like phones, cameras and tablets can use 5V which can be supplied via a USB plug. Larger devices like laptops can use 19V with a large coax connector. If a large coax connector isn't the best design make something flat but make sure it fits in both ways round. Maybe have a middle voltage like 12V for routers, battery chargers and anything else.
Make all cables detachable, make all PSUs sold meet strict efficiency requirements. Make the PSUs universal, sell them as single, dual or tri voltage. Tri voltage PSUs can do all 3 voltages, single can just do 5V. For the multi voltage PSUs make them able to automatically choose the correct voltage based on the attached cable.