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The Most Promising Technologies for Super Fast Charging

September 27, 2013

The dream of any user of mobile devices is to have its batteries always charged. The second is to have the possibility to charge the batteries as fast as possible, while preserving battery life.

battery-charge-icon1-300x185

While the identification and introduction of new battery technologies is a complex innovation process with a long time to market, a big effort is spent to define and impose new ways to deliver more power in charging mode, making the life of the user more and more easier.

This approach involves the definition and adoption of new standards based on common and shared specifications and it involves the creation of a new ecosystem of connectors, cables, chargers, adapters and semiconductor solutions. The time to market in this case is much faster and new solutions are popping-up in the last year.

The most promising alternatives are:

  • Wireless Charging
  • USB Power Delivery
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge

Wireless Charging – the most attractive

This technology uses inductive coupling between devices to transfer energy without any physical connection, just a physical alignment between transmitter and receiver coils. It’s not actually a novel approach, as it has been used extensively with toothbrushes.

wireless charging

But it for sure an attractive approach, as it permits to charge your device without cables and connectors. And it’s becoming more and more diffused: you can buy wireless charger mats, phones and recharge them even on Starbucks shops.

The active standards in the market are Qi (Wireless Power Consortium), PMA (Power Matter Alliance) and A4WP (Alliance for Wireless Power).

An example of phones natively supporting wireless charging in the market:

  • Google nexus 4
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Nokia Lumia 920 and 820

Using ad-hoc covers, you can extend this technology to other phones. This technology requires specific and custom power manager ICs in the phone and specific hardware (coils) to create the coupling. No cables or connectors!

USB Power Delivery – the most flexible and complete

We spoke a lot about this technology in previous posts. The initial specifications have been released on 2012 and permit to deliver up to 100W over USB interfaces to charge faster batteries and to supply external peripherals. To reach highest power profiles, special cables and connectors should be used to support higher voltages and currents. The new standard implements an independent communication channel over VBUS without impacting on the standard USB functionalities.
The USB Power Delivery grants the higher level of flexibility:

  • Dynamic power profile negotiation to handle stand-by modes, peak of power needs and different battery charge conditions
  • Dynamic Role Swap, enabling the possibility to have devices able to deliver and consume power.

Currently no products are available on the market, but the first USB-PD ICs are appearing in the portfolio of the big semiconductor players. So I’m aspecting to see products at the end of 2014 with USB-PD capabilities.

Qualcomm Quick Charge – the smartest

In competition with USB Power Delivery to charge devices through the USB port, the Qualcomm® Quick Charge technology constitutes a simpler and viable alternative.quick-charge

I published already a post regarding this technology. It enables a simple but efficient way to negotiate the voltage, the delivered current and the power limits between battery device and charger. The 1.0 Quick charge release, available already in up to 70 products, delivers up to 2.5A via USB port. The second generation (2.0), available in 2014, is a step forward in terms of power performances (delivering up to 60W) and additional features. Quick Charge technology has more limitations in comparison with USB Power Delivery, but it is for sure simpler and, at first glance, cheaper.

As Qualcomm is focusing to integrate this technology in PMICs of tablets and smartphones,  Power Integrations just announced the launch of the CHY100 device (see this post), the first Quick Charge compliant solutions for chargers.

Conclusions

The war to impose and define the best battery charge technology for portable devices has just started. In the coming months we will see products implementing one or more of the above solutions and, maybe, new technology will appear.

Who will be the winner?

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