Compact, Low-Profile Power Converters

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Atlanta, Georgia
Project Term:
09/01/2010 - 02/28/2014

Technology Description:

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is creating compact, low-profile power adapters and power bricks using materials and tools adapted from other industries and from grid-scale power applications. Adapters and bricks convert electrical energy into usable power for many types of electronic devices, including laptop computers and mobile phones. These converters are often called wall warts because they are big, bulky, and sometimes cover up an adjacent wall socket that could be used to power another electronic device. The magnetic components traditionally used to make adapters and bricks have reached their limits; they can't be made any smaller without sacrificing performance. Georgia Tech is taking a cue from grid-scale power converters that use iron alloys as magnetic cores. These low-cost alloys can handle more power than other materials, but the iron must be stacked in insulated plates to maximize energy efficiency. In order to create compact, low-profile power adapters and bricks, these stacked iron plates must be extremely thin—only hundreds of nanometers in thickness, in fact. To make plates this thin, Georgia Tech is using manufacturing tools used in microelectromechanics and other small-scale industries.

Potential Impact:

If successful, Georgia Tech would significantly reduce the size and cost of portable electronic devices like laptops and phones.


This project could contribute to a smarter, more advanced, and more reliable power grid.


Efficient electrical components and devices conserve energy and reduce harmful emissions.


Stand-by energy drain from power adapters accounts for about 10% of an average home's annual power usage—this amounts to about $4 billion in wasted spending across the U.S. every year.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Timothy Heidel
Project Contact:
Prof. Mark Allen
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


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