At least once a week a familiar scene plays itself out at BusinessGreen's Central London bunker. Having got into work someone will realise their mobile phone's battery is about to run out and will trail round the office asking if anyone has a charger. If they are lucky they may find a cable, but almost inevitably it will not be compatible and they will be left spending the rest of the day with a dead phone and a lurking feeling that they have become temporarily detached from the 21st century.
It is a scene recognisable to anyone who works in an office and one that Simon Daniel, chief executive of Moixa, reckons he could soon eradicate with a mobile phone battery that can be recharged through a USB port.
The technology has already been pioneered through the USB rechargable AA batteries which Moixa launched to much media fanfare last year and the development process required to apply the same principle to mobile phone batteries is at an advanced stage with Daniel already carrying a working prototype around with him. All he has to do when his phone dies is take the back off, fold out the USB connector and plug it into the nearest computer or laptop.
"It will be great for the business traveller allowing them to charge their phone almost where ever they are without needing to carry round the charger," he predicts.
The only downside is that incorporating the USB connector eats into the space usually occupied by the battery cutting its life by about 10 percent, but Daniel argues that with battery lives continuing to lengthen this is not a major problem.
For Daniel the bigger problem is not with the battery, but mobile phone manufacturers infuriating refusal to embrace more standardised components. "Distribution is difficult because the requirements for each phone are different," he admits. "But we are talking to many of the big mobile phone firms about the technology and we hope to have a model that can recharge from a USB port available early next year."
Like Moixa's AA batteries - which aim to replace some of the 15 billion batteries that are produced and disposed of each year - the new phone battery also has green credentials, Daniel argues, as it could ultimately replace the unwieldy, resource intensive and energy inefficient battery chargers that currently come with all mobile phones.
Meanwhile, Moixa is looking to promote adoption of its existing AA green batteries by offering firms the option of ordering batteries featuring their brand livery, which they could then give out at conferences and customer events as a more useful and sustainable alternative to dishing out countless free USB sticks to weary delegates.
Daniel is convinced, however, that Moixa's battery innovations are just the "ambassador" for a far more revolutionary green technology that could ultimately eradicate all the energy inefficient electronic device chargers which currently litter our homes and offices.
"Whether it's phones, or MP3 players, or laptops, or even printers, people are buying more low power devices and fewer large mechanical devices, like washing machines and fridges," observes Daniel. "As a result our power needs are shifting. This century is all about low power DC consumption. Most electrical devices we now buy have low power loads, but the problem is that it is very inefficient to make this new world work with the old world.
"You end up with a house full of adapters for turning the high voltage household current into low voltage DC suitable for these devices and most of these adapters are so inefficient they lose 20 to 60 percent of the energy going in. You can feel this happening when you put your hand on them and they are hot."
This is a not insignificant problem considering that there are an estimated 10 billion AC/DC adapters in use globally with the equivalent of three percent of the US' entire electricity supply thought to be wasted as a result of their inefficient transformers.
There are hopes that the combination of more energy efficient devices coupled with innovations in long distance DC cables and wider adoption of local energy grids powered by on site renewable power sources could result in a transition towards DC energy grids, thus eradicating the problem of inefficient transformers. But such an energy revolution remains decades away and in the meantime we are stuck with an extremely energy inefficient scenario whereby mains electricity is increasingly ill-suited to many of the devices we now use.
It is this considerable dilemma that Moixa is hoping to resolve with a new device, currently at the pilot stage, which aims to provide every home with one centralised, highly efficient AC/DC adapter.
According to Daniel, this so called Energy Server would plug into a typical AC socket and convert the energy to DC using a transformer boasting efficiency far in excess of that found in typical charging devices. A hub, similar to a USB hub, would then allow different DC devices to be plugged into the server for charging.
While the primary purpose of this device would be to improve energy efficiency and remove the clutter of multiple mobile phone chargers and the like, Daniel is adamant that it will also pave the way for far more efficient use of energy generated from onsite renewable technologies such as solar panels.
"The energy server can connect to the mains, but it can also connect to a local renewable energy source, such as a solar panel, which generates DC power that can be used directly by the server so you avoid the inefficient conversion altogether," he explains. "You can then switch between getting the power from the mains or the solar panel automatically as required."
As adoption of the next generation of low voltage lighting becomes more widespread the server could also be connected to the building's lighting network, improving efficiency still further by replacing the transformers that currently need to be incorporated in low voltage bulbs.
Daniel reckons Moixa is on track to roll out a version of the server that is both easy to install and priced for the mass market early next year. "We estimate it could cut 5 to 10 percent off domestic energy consumption within five years," he adds.
In an ideal world, a rapid transition towards long distance DC cables or local intelligent energy grids would make this innovation little more than short term fix. But with no sign that such a massive investment programme is imminent Moixa's Energy Server promises to provide an elegant solution to the inefficiencies caused by the massive proliferation of low power gadgets and the inadequacy of existing charging technologies.
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