You probably have a sneaking suspicion that using your smartphone all the fricking time is wasting a fair bit of energy. And you’re right! And among all the energy-wasting parts of your phone, there’s one little gizmo — the power amplifier — that is a particular energy hog.
The power amplifier, basically, just sits around spinning its wheels, waiting for you to use it. In theory, it could hang out in standby mode at low power levels, but it’s dumb, and it gets kind of confused when it has to switch out of standby to higher-energy activities. So most designers, says Technology Review, leave the standby energy pretty high. But a company called Eta Devices, which spun out of MIT, has figured out how to make the power amplifier less confused — and thus, more efficient.
Here’s how they did it:
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.
If that made little sense to you, here is the important part: This could make your phone’s battery life TWICE as long. And since there are power amplifiers in cell phone base stations as well, wasting energy in order to keep us connected, it could make the whole cell phone network dramatically more energy-efficient, too.