Beyond just teaching and learning, MIT courses frequently spawn innovative new technologies and products. Here’s the story behind one recent spinoff, and the course where it started.

The incredible shrinking “power brick”
Startup FINsix leverages novel MIT technology to shrink laptop adapters to a quarter the size.

Rob Matheson | MIT News Office
May 29, 2014

While laptops continue to shrink in size and weight, the “power bricks” that charge them remain heavy and bulky. But now, MIT spinout FINsix has invented an adapter that’s roughly one-quarter the size and one-sixth the weight of a conventional brick, and just as efficient.

Co-founded by four MIT alumni — Vanessa Green MNG ’08, MBA ’11; Anthony Sagneri SM ’07, PhD ’12; George Hwang PhD ’10; and Justin Burkhart SM ’10 — FINsix has developed the world’s smallest laptop adapter, called the Dart. Around 2 1/2 cubic inches in size and weighing around 2 ounces, the adapter is only slightly larger than an ordinary plug.

The Dart runs on novel very-high frequency (VHF) power-conversion technology, co-invented by Sagneri, that delivers energy more often and in smaller chunks than traditional adapters, ultimately wasting less energy. It does so by making the adapter’s switching frequency — which transfers energy from the adapter to the battery — run 1,000 times faster.

…[I]ts story began at MIT in 2010. Green, as a student in the MIT Sloan School of Management, was looking for technology to commercialize. At the same time, Sagneri, Hwang, and Burkhart were electrical engineering and computer science students who were excited to start a company.

Around 2010, their interests merged in MIT Sloan’s 15.390 New Enterprises, a course where students pitch business ideas and the class chooses ideas to pursue. Sagneri’s VHF power-conversion technology wasn’t chosen. But Green saw potential. “I was interested in working on something that had real technology behind it,” she says.

The four-person founding team began building FINsix (then OnChip Power) with mentorship from seasoned entrepreneurs in the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service. “MIT’s ecosystem was a boon to us,” Sagneri says. Read more…

You can explore 15.390 New Enterprises in OCW, featuring a collection of video tutorials on “How to Launch a Successful Startup Company.”