If you have a modern smartphone, with a big screen and some form of high speed data, you’re probably really sick of charging it. Most smartphones these days need to be charged almost every day, because they suck more power than ever before. One of the biggest causes of this electricity suck is power amplifiers – the chips that amplify your outgoing radio transmissions to make them powerful enough to communicate with cell towers.
There might be a solution to that problem in the works, though. A report in the MIT Technology Review says that an MIT spinoff company has a new design for power amps that will cut down their power usage in a big way. Currently, as much as 60% of your phone’s battery power is used by power amps, and those power amps waste around 65% of the power they use. If the aforementioned MIT professors, and their new startup company Eta Devices, are successful, they’ll be able to cut those power consumption figures in half.
A big part of how they’re going to do this is by cutting down in power consumption when the amp isn’t being used. Current amps draw quite a bit of power even when you’re not transmitting any data, so just having LTE enabled is sucking your battery life away. Eta Devices plans to bring the standby power draw of their power amps way down, allowing your overall power consumption to drop substantially.
Initially, they want to use their new power amp design in LTE base stations. The same problem that plagues your smartphone plagues the towers that relay your data, and it eats up a tremendous amount of electricity. The MIT report above estimates that $36 billion worth of electricity will be used next year, just to power all the base stations in the world!
If the technology is successful in that application, they’re hoping to bring it to our data-eating devices as well. It’s probably still a couple years off, but hopefully this will mean some significantly improved battery life is in the works for future smartphones.