We're on the verge of having smartphones that use half the power | cross pond high tech | Scoop.it
Powering cellular base stations around the world will cost $36 billion this year—chewing through nearly 1 percent of all global electricity production. Much of this is wasted by a grossly inefficient piece of hardware: the power amplifier, a gadget that turns electricity into radio signals.

The versions of amplifiers within smartphones suffer similar problems. If you’ve noticed your phone getting warm and rapidly draining the battery when streaming video or sending large files, blame the power amplifiers. As with the versions in base stations, these chips waste more than 65 percent of their energy—and that’s why you sometimes need to charge your phone twice a day.

Now an MIT spinout company called Eta Devices, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, cofounded by two MIT electrical engineering professors, Joel Dawson and David Perreault, say they have cracked the efficiency problem with a new amplifier design.

It’s currently a lab-bench technology, but if it proves itself in commercialization, which is expected to start in 2013—first targeting LTE base stations—the technology could slash base station energy use by half. Likewise, a chip-scale version of the technology, still in development, could double the battery life of smartphones.

“There really has been no significant advance in this area for years,” says Vanu Bose, founder of Vanu, a wireless technology startup. “If you get 30 to 35 percent efficiency with today’s amplifiers, you are doing really well. But they can more than double that.”