By Jody McCutcheon
Technology has had a fracturing effect on families: think mom on her cellphone in the den, dad on his laptop in the study, and junior on his tablet in the bedroom. But the Current Table has the power, so to speak, to re-recalibrate the family dynamic.
We’re talking about a piece of furniture that’s also a source of energy, specifically the first piece of furniture that can capture sunlight indoors and harvest energy from it. Created by Dutch designer Marjan Van Aubel, the Current Table converts sunlight into energy with which to charge your device, be it smartphone, laptop or tablet.
How is this possible, you may ask? Well, in a clever process similar to how plants use chlorophyll in photosynthesis, the tabletop surface contains a dye-sensitized solar cell in which small titanium dioxide particles absorb sunlight and release electrons, thus creating an electrical current. The orange-coloured dye helps the titanium dioxide particles absorb sunlight more efficiently, and also gives the table a stylish dark-rust colour. When the energy isn’t being used, it can be stored in a battery.
Maybe the Current Table’s slickest trick is that, unlike traditional solar cells, its dye- sensitized cells don’t require direct sunlight to generate a current. The table can be in your kitchen or office or anywhere inside your house, out of direct contact with sunlight, and still produce a charge, with no need to lay cables. It just needs a little diffused light to harvest the power you require. It can also charge itself using indoor light.
The table offers two USB ports, so you can charge more than one device at a time (i.e., the kids don’t have to fight over who gets to top up their tablet at lunch). A simple light display indicates the table’s remaining juice. Charging time is determined by strength or amount of available sunlight. One cell will fully power a battery in about eight hours, with each USB port containing four cells.
Offering both utility and aesthetics in one everyday object, the Current Table is ideal for restaurants, libraries, conference rooms or any area that has no source of direct sun.
And of course it can bring everyone together at the dinner table for the family meal (whether everyone talks to each other or stares down at their devices is another matter.) The Current Table has been nominated for Design of the Year 2015, and was exhibited at London’s Design Museum–you could say it’s certainly creating a bit of a buzz!