Ikea’s motto is ‘Wonderful Everyday’ and nothing embraces that mantra more than the company’s constant development of new products. Whether they are commercially viable products or simply concepts for the future, Ikea is constantly exploring ways to make their customers lives even easier.
One way it has done that is by releasing wireless chargers which can be integrated into other pieces of furniture. Now those wireless chargers have received a significant upgrade by way of a new concept using thermoelectricity.
For those unaware, thermoelectricity is a concept that has been around for at least 200 years but it’s never been practical. Now thanks to advances in nanotechnology and various start-ups working on making the materials required more affordable – Ikea has proven what benefits it could afford the average consumer.
All of the technology that integrators work with on a day-to-day basis generates heat. Whether it be a flat-screen TV or a projector – heat is being produced. Sure there are things manufacturers do to minimise the amount of heat produced, but Ikea’s vision is to utilise that heat and generate technology from it.
Sergey Komardenkov and Vihanga Gore, design students at Copenhagen’s Institute of Interaction, are the people behind the project – having been invited into Ikea’s research lab in the heart of the city, dubbed Space10.
Their idea was to embed the thermoelectric generator inside a dinner table or desk. That way when someone places a hot plate or coffee mug on the table, or a laptop on a desk, the generator could then convert that heat back into electricity and trickle charge a smartphone that is also placed on the desk.
According to the duo’s project description, a normal laptop will consume about 40W of electricity and emit the same amount of heat during operation. Typically that would be wasted heat dissipated into the air – but with the Heat Harvest desk, that heat would be stored for use as electricity.
“We imagine two possible products that use the technology”, says Vihanga.
“The first is table tops that extract heat from hot objects that are placed on top of them. These could be anything from a pot of soup to a frying pan straight from the kitchen stove.
“The second product is heat harvesting pads that you could place beneath TV set top boxes or heat-emitting power adapters anywhere in the home.”
Unfortunately while the duo has proven that the concept works – it’s not something that will be available in Ikea’s bargain bins just yet. While great advances in bringing the cost down have been made by other companies, it’s still not at a level that is viable for a company like Ikea where cost is king.