MIT Professors Develop Technology to Up Power Efficiency in Smartphones

November 27, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

You must have just gotten a new phone, fresh from the Black Friday deals, and are all set to enjoy your holidays with a new high-end gadget. But be warned- your smartphone is greedy and will gorge on energy, and that’s irrespective of the company that made your device.

But don’t blame your phone, for the fault lies mainly with the power amplifier- a piece of hardware that converts electricity into radio signals and which is very much inefficient in its work. The inefficiency will cost a major wastage of not only electricity, but also money.

But two MIT electrical engineering professors claim to have found a solution to all this problem. Joel Dawson and David Perreault, who are the founders of a company called Eta Devices, say they have come up with a new amplifier design that can up the efficiency.

As of now, their innovation is constricted to the lab walls, but they expect it to begin commercialisation next year. The first target on the list is LTE base stations and they say the technology can bring down base station energy by half.

Moreover, confining the technology into a chip can double the battery life of the smartphones, but this is currently under development. The technology is actually a new, faster working electronic gearbox.

The new hardware selects a voltage from among the many different ones available, choosing one that minimizes power consumption, and sends it across the transistor. This process is done for about a staggering 20 million times per second.

The company’s name for the technology is asymmetric multilevel outphasing. Eta Devices get a funding of $6 million from Ray Stata, the cofounder of Analog Devices, and his startup firm, Stata Venture Partners.

The product is expected to be unveiled formally during the Mobile World Congress in February of next year. Although the initial market will be the developing world, the company’s ultimate aim is the global smartphone market.

A smartphone chip is expected to hold rein on a single power amplifier which will be capable of handling all the different modes and frequencies used globally. A similar technology is seen inside Apple’s iPhone 5, which has inside it 5 chips of the same function.

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