The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has published specifications for a single external charger that could theoretically be used to power a wide range of laptops, following on from earlier work by the organisation on standardised phone chargers.
The IEC Technical Specification 62700: ‘DC Power supply for notebook computer' is based on the input of experts from many countries around the world and has been accepted by national committees participating in IEC's TC (Technical Committee) 100, the IEC said in a statement.
According to the IEC, the specifications should deliver a significant reduction of electronic waste related to power supplies by allowing consumers to use a single external charger with a wide range of laptop computers.
The organisation estimates that the total global waste, related to all kinds of chargers for information and communication devices, exceeds half a million tons each year. This includes equipment that may be discarded simply because the charger has been lost or broken, it claimed.
IEC general secretary Frans Vreeswijk welcomed the move as a step towards reducing such waste.
"The IEC International Standards for the universal charger for mobile phones has been widely adopted by the mobile phone industry and is already starting to help reduce e-waste. A single power supply covering a wide range of notebook computers is the next step in lowering e-waste and its impact on our planet," he said.
The mobile phone industry had already largely moved towards adopting micro USB as a standard connector for charging, with the notable exception of Apple, which uses its own bespoke charging dock for inputs to the phone, although the socket input now offers USB compatibility.
In the laptop world, there is a much wider variety of connector types and the voltage and current requirements differ even among models from the same manufacturer, so it is doubtful that a single charger could power every available laptop on the market.
ThinkPad maker Lenovo recently changed the design of the power connector on its chargers, which seems to be because its new generation of ultrabook models are too thin to accommodate the connector it traditionally used across all ThinkPads, for example.
Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.