Tiny Chip Supersizes Battery Life of Electronics


If your phone's battery life is the bane of your existence, then this is for you. Engineers at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), led by Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Ruyan Guo, have developed a chip that can extend the battery life of almost any gadget.

The tiny chip is only the size of a pinhead, but its potential is great. The chip can make lower power electronics like smartphones work much more efficiently, cutting back on the number of times you have to plug in and slashing the energy consumption of the electronics in our lives.

"This chip can be used with anything that runs on a battery," said UTSA researcher Shuza Binzaid. "It manages power so that the device can last longer."

When people want to extend the life of their phone's battery, usually that means switching it into low power mode which turns off many of the phone's functions in order to preserve the battery charge. With the chip, the same power sipping mode could be achieved while the phone was running at full functionality.

The researchers say that the chip improves the power efficiency of electronics so much that smaller batteries could be used across the board.

This major boost to battery life could make the chip especially well-suited to medical applications. Imagine pace makers, defibrillators and future medical sensors that could run almost indefinitely, removing the risks of multiple invasive surgeries to replace batteries when they run low.

Those same benefits could be seen in sensors that keep an eye out for air pollution, fires, even the structural integrity of bridges and buildings. Small gadgets like fitness monitors would rarely have to be charged.

The research team just received a grant from the National Science Foundation for the purpose of exploring the commercialization of the chip. Now the engineers must made the hard decision of picking which industry to focus on first.