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USB group shows off a 100W bidirectional power delivery prototype

Will be able to use a USB charger to power your laptop
Fri Apr 12 2013, 14:50

BEIJING: THE USB IMPLEMENTERS FORUM (USB-IF) is showing off a prototype USB cable system at the Technology Showcase at IDF Beijing that can deliver up to 100W of power.

As you can see from the photo, the laptop is a fairly old Dell laptop that runs Windows Vista and supports USB 2.0 at 480Mbit/s, while the monitor is new and supports Superspeed USB 3.0 at 5Gbit/s.


The prototype USB cable between the two units delivers both power from the laptop to the monitor and the video stream, which looks quite good considering the speed limit of 480Mbit/s.

The two small circuit boards that you can see between the laptop and the monitor contain prototypes of the power delivery controllers. So far they have only been implemented in a field programmable gate array (FPGA), which takes up much more space than the final product.

The FPGA allows very rapid prototyping as researchers can reprogram it repeatedly as they refine the logic before committing it to silicon for mass production.

When the laptop is connected to a USB power brick it will power the monitor, but when the laptop switches to battery mode, the display automatically turns off. The new USB power delivery scheme needs just one cord to the monitor, as the USB cable supports both the display information traffic and power delivery.

USB-IF demonstrator Brad Saunders, who also works for Intel, said that Intel is working on at least one reference design using power delivery over USB, which someday will enable you to use a USB charger to power your laptop and have the laptop power an external monitor and/or recharge a smartphone.

Such a reference design will use multiple USB connectors that are capable of delivering power. The beauty is that the connectors will automatically negotiate if they need to deliver or receive power.

If you connect a USB charger to the laptop then the laptop will start charging, but if you connect a smartphone or a monitor to the same port then the port will act as a power supply or battery charger. The user will not need to remember which is which, as the cables work in both directions.

The big challenge for Intel will be to convince its OEM customers that they should start using USB chargers for laptops instead of their own proprietary power bricks, as many laptop makers make quite a profit on replacement power supplies when the original units fail or are lost. µ


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