Smartphones have revolutionized the manner in which we interact with our mobile devices, and with each other, but there’s a glaring flaw in their march to overtake our communication habits – the battery life. The charger cord is the bane of virtually every smartphone user, regardless of manufacturer or device. There have been advances recently in wireless charging, but it’s merely a band-aid for a much larger wound. As demand for more powerful hardware, more advanced software, and constant data connections grows larger, the need for a more efficient and longer lasting mobile battery is becoming increasingly vital to the future of the industry. A recent breakthrough in power amplification and battery technology may usher in the next era of efficiently powered devices.
Power amplifiers are at the core of the breakthrough, so let’s go through the basics of how this technology works. Power amplification is the process of turning electricity into radio signals, or the means by which your cellular connection is created and maintained. This happens at the cellular towers dotted around the landscape, but it also happens within your phone. It’s a horribly inefficient process, potentially wasting 65% of the energy involved. This becomes especially evident when sending large files or using a large amount of data in a short amount of time, and you may notice it as your device heats up.
ETA Devices, an MIT spinout company, may have a solution to this glaring issue, according to MIT Technology Review. Two MIT electrical professors, Joel Dawson and David Perreault, believe they have found the solution in a new amplifier design. The changes they are making boil down to a gear box, which can select the appropriate voltages to send across the transistor, at a speed of almost 20 million selections per second. This ultra-fast selection process minimizes wasted energy, allowing the most appropriate flow of electricity throughout. Another piece of the puzzle is the fact that current amplifiers maintain a high level of power at all times, but this new technology should allow them to stay in a standby mode until needed for data transmission, without affecting the user experience or performance. The energy savings could double the battery life of future devices.
The company is funded by Ray Stata, a co-founder of Analog Devices, as part of his venture firm, State Venture Partners. The $6 million investment by the venture firm should get the company into production and release by next February, at an event to be held in Spain. The initial market is the improvement of base stations in developing nations, where an unbelievable amount of energy is being wasted by the large towers, which are currently run on diesel generators in many areas. However, the true aim of the company is to bring their technology to the mobile market as quickly as possible, and in a big way. By providing a single chip that can handle all global standards in terms of frequencies and modes, they can eliminate multiple chips currently taking up space in the smartphones on the market today. For example, the iPhone 5 has five chips monitoring and using network technology, that number could possibly be reduced to 1 in the future.