Startup Eta Devices may soon provide tech that halves smartphone power consumption


A company in Massachusetts called Eta Devices, co-founded by MIT electrical engineering professors Joel Dawson and David Perreault, says that they have hit on a new amplifier design for cellular base stations and smartphones that could sharply reduced power consumption in those devices.

Power amplifiers in base stations and smartphones do the same things, just on different scales. Both convert electricity into radio signals and this conversion process is responsible for over 50% of the power consumption in smartphones while base stations chew up around 1% of the world’s power consumption. Eta Devices’ new amplifier design, which is still a lab technology at the moment, hopes to increase the efficiency of amplifiers, cutting down on the electricity consumed at the same time.

Current power amplifiers switch between two modes, standby and output signal modes, but signal distortion that arises when switching from a low power output to a high power output means that standby modes need to be kept fairly high, wasting power. Eta Devices’ new amplifier uses something that they call asymmetric multilevel outphasing, which functions like a gearbox for the amplifier and allows it to select multiple voltages to send through a transistor in order to miminise power consumption.

The first place that the technology is likely to be implemented is in base stations, reducing costs overall, though the company also has designs on a smartphone chip that would lead to longer battery lives in mobile devices. Another advantage would be a smartphone power amplifier that could be used across all types of phones, from feature handsets to LTE enabled devices.

Source: Technology Review


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