Anyone who uses a cell phone or a WiFi laptop knows the irritation of a dead-battery surprise. But now researchers at the University of Rochester have broken a barrier in wireless chip design that uses a tenth as much battery power as current designs and, better yet, will use much less in emerging wireless devices of the future.
Hui Wu, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Rochester, a pioneer in a circuit design called an "injection locked frequency divider," or ILFD, has solved the last hurdle to making the new method work. Wireless chip manufacturers have been aware of ILFD and its ability to ensure accurate data transfer using much less energy than traditional digital methods, but the technique had two fatal flaws: it could not handle a wide range of frequencies, and could not ensure a fine enough resolution within that range. Wu, together with Ali Hajimiri, associate professor of electrical engineering at California Institute of Technology, surmounted the first problem in 2001, and has now found a solution for the latter.
When a cell phone or a laptop using WiFi or Bluetooth communicates wirelessly, the data is transmitted at very specific frequencies. One person can talk on a cell phone at a frequency of 2.0001 gigahertz, and someone else nearby can talk at 2.0002 gigahertz, and neither one will pick up the others conversation. In order to make sure it is both listening for and sending information on exactly the right frequency at all times, the phone must maintain a very accurate and stable clock, which is generated by a special circuit called "phase-locked loop." This circuit consumes a dramatic portion of the battery usage on wireless devices.
Jonathan Sherwood | EurekAlert!
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