UL research helps develop device that could boost smartphone battery life

15 Jun 2020

Image: © Victor Hugo C Souza/Stock.adobe.com

As part of an international effort, researchers from UL have helped develop new technology that could greatly reduce power consumption in devices.

The Bernal Institute’s Materials Modelling Group at the University of Limerick (UL) has played a role in a new discovery published to Nature Materials. Working as part of an international team, the researchers discovered a new type of molecular switch that could significantly boost the battery life of a smartphone.

Dr Damien Thompson, an associate professor in physics at UL, collaborated with Prof Christian Nijhuis at National University of Singapore and Prof Enrique del Barco of University of Central Florida to produce this new molecular-scale solution for high-density computing.

Thompson’s work using computer modelling helped predict that the organic material used in the new device can “double-job” by acting as both a switch and memory storage.

The engineered device is just two nanometres thick and works by combining both the diode switch and memory element within a single circuit component. This, Thompson said, gives “dramatic improvement” in power consumption and could potentially replace the larger and more energy hungry ‘one diode, one resistor’ architecture.

Helping build artificial brains

“Until now, molecular-scale switches in electrical circuits were limited to just a single function and suffered from charge leakage, poor reproducibility and instability,” he said.

“The new dual-function switch removes these obstacles by stabilising the molecule under the extremely high gigavolt-per-metre electric fields produced as charge flows through circuits.”

The discovery could also help speed up development of new technologies involving artificial synapses and neural networks. Some technical challenges still remain, however, which will require more research.

“Deciphering the underlying mechanisms of how smart materials work gives us confidence to propose bold new device designs,” Thompson added.

“As the scientific community continues to advance the field of predictive materials modelling, we are enabling new developments in AI, environmental monitoring and biopharma that will improve lives.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic