Did you know that your mobile is one reason it’s time to rethink the grid?

'We are seeing a shift towards DC power and will need a lot more DC in the home.'

I really love my iPhone 5 – I use it for my business and personal needs. My day begins with checking my emails, daily calendar, What’sApp messages, Facebook, Twitter and Evernote tasks. Before I even leave the house, the battery is already down to 90 percent of its charge. If I am travelling and constantly checking my iPhone, the battery is flat by 4 p.m. So I carry the charger with me to give my phone 30-minute boosts in meetings or airports in order to be able to use it throughout the hustle and bustle of my average day.

But have you ever wondered why a cable is not enough and it needs the little square adapter (that has only recently become a bit smaller with the newer iPhones)? It is actually a high-tech piece of equipment called a rectifier, which converts the alternating current (AC) power that comes from the socket into the DC power needed by the phone.

Basically all electronic devices in our homes have a rectifier, either an external one as described above or in-built into the device itself. This includes mobile and tablet devices, TVs, radios, PCs, Macs and many more, as well as energy-conserving LEDs (light-emitting diodes).

The modern world increasingly runs on DC

AC vs. DC: Both are necessary in our everyday lives. But why? In the 1880s, in the early days of electricity, AC won out over DC for the reason that it was more practical to set up at the time.

But AC no longer fulfills all our energy needs. Global consumption of energy is constantly growing, especially in emerging economies. More and more electricity is being generated from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and water. DC is the best technology to transmit power from remote renewable sources over long distances, and the solar panels on the roof produce DC power.

So we are seeing a shift towards DC power and will need a lot more DC in the home. The most efficient way to deliver DC power would be to convert the power in a larger rectifier before it even enters the building, rather than at each individual device. DC may increasingly become the way in new areas or cities, where new communities are powered for the first time.

The AC vs. DC battle will go on for a while, but it will hopefully help renewable energy find its place as we move towards a smarter grid for a more sustainable world.

ABB is a partner of TEDGlobal 2013

ABB is a partner of TEDGlobal 2013. Our booth at the event provides information about energy challenges, renewable energy and the need for smart power networks. The slogan of this year’s conference is “Think again” and speakers and attendees will challenge and inspire us over the next few days – our goal is to also inspire them that it is time to rethink the grid!

There’s a charging station at the booth for those with the same problem I have every day. TED attendees can place their devices into a locker for a 30-minute charge to see them through the long conference day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a mobile device could be charged in 30 seconds instead of 30 minutes? If buses can be charged in 15 seconds, I’m hopeful that similar charging speed will come to our mobile devices as well.

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About the author

Daniela Luzanin

I am working as project manager in the digital communications team at ABB headquarters in Zurich. In my role I am responsible for online communication and collaboration projects. Before working for ABB, I have worked for Namics, one of the biggest web agencies in Switzerland, and also for Google in Zurich. Outside of work, I enjoy doing watersports, travelling, cooking and spending time with family and friends.
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