Do you ever wonder why you're always plugging in your smartphone? (Isn't this thing supposed to be wireless?) Sure you use a lot of data, but there's actually an extremely inefficient piece of hardware that's to blame: the power amplifier.
Basically, it's the device that takes electricity and turns it into radio signals. It's because of this gadget that your battery drains so quickly when you stream video on your phone. It's also found in cellular base stations where it wastes 65 percent of its energy. But Technology Review says that a breakthrough design in power amplifiers has improved the efficiency problem.
The new design is from Eta Devices. Technology Review explains how it works:
The new advance is essentially a blazingly fast electronic gearbox. It chooses among different voltages that can be sent across the transistor, and selects the one that minimizes power consumption, and it does this as many as 20 million times per second. The company calls the technology asymmetric multilevel outphasing.
The problem they are attacking affects not only when you are literally transmitting something, but also when you are receiving. In the latter situation, the amplifier is busy as the device continually sends out messages confirming the receipt of packets—collections of bits that make up a unit of Internet communications—or alerting the network when packets are missing. “The transmitter is very active, even when you are downloading a YouTube video—not many consumers realize that,” Dawson says.
Got that? The bottom line: it will double the battery life of your smartphone while using less energy. Equally important, energy use at cellular base stations could be cut in half.
The company will begin commercialization of the technology in 2013, focusing first on cellular base stations.
Efficiency Breakthrough Promises Smartphones that Use Half the Power [Technology Review]
Photo: Flickr/Johan Larsson