New device could increase battery life of electronic devices by more than a hundred-fold

May 16, 2018 by Jeff Sossamon, University of Missouri-Columbia
The left shows the atomic force micrograph, exhibiting honeycomb structure pattern behind a magnetic device. Inset shows the schematic of current flow direction. On the right: electrical data reveals diode-type behavior of current flowing in one direction. Inset shows that the dissipative power is of the order of nano-watt in the current flowing direction, which is at least three orders of magnitude smaller than the semiconductor diode. Credit: Deepak Singh

Among the chief complaints for smartphone, laptop and other battery-operated electronics users is that the battery life is too short and—in some cases—that the devices generate heat. Now, a group of physicists led by Deepak K. Singh, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Missouri, has developed a device material that can address both issues. The team has applied for a patent for a magnetic material that employs a unique structure—a "honeycomb" lattice that exhibits distinctive electronic properties.

"Semiconductor diodes and amplifiers, which often are made of silicon or germanium, are key elements in modern electronic devices," said Singh, who also serves as the principal investigator of the Magnetism and Superconductivity Research Laboratory at MU. "A diode normally conducts current and voltage through the device along only one biasing direction, but when the voltage is reversed, the current stops. This switching process costs significant energy due to dissipation, or the depletion of the , thus affecting . By substituting the semiconductor with a magnetic system, we believed we could create an energetically effective device that consumes much less with enhanced functionalities."

Singh's team developed a two-dimensional, nanostructured material created by depositing a magnetic alloy, or permalloy, on the honeycomb structured template of a silicon surface. The new material conducts unidirectional current, or currents that only flow one way. The material also has significantly less dissipative power compared to a semiconducting diode, which is normally included in electronic devices.

The magnetic diode paves the way for new magnetic transistors and amplifiers that dissipate very little power, thus increasing the efficiency of the power source. This could mean that designers could increase the life of batteries by more than a hundred-fold. Less dissipative power in computer processors could also reduce the heat generated in laptop or desktop CPUs.

"Although more works need to be done to develop the end product, the device could mean that a normal 5-hour charge could increase to more than a 500-hour charge," Singh said. "The device could also act as an 'on/off switch' for other periphery components such as closed-circuit cameras or radio frequency attenuators, which reduces power flowing through a device. We have applied for a U.S. patent and have begun the process of incorporating a spin-off company to help us take the to market."

The proposed startup company associated with this research, highlights the university's impact on the state's economic development efforts, including commercialization of research conducted at Mizzou, workforce development and job growth, quality of life improvements for residents, and attracting corporations and businesses to the state. Companies commercializing MU technologies have secured hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and grants to advance their commercialization efforts. In 2017, the Office of Technology Management and Industry Relations reported that 31 U.S. patents were issued to members of the MU community.

The studies, "Magnetic Diode Behavior at Room Temperature in 2D Honeycombs" and "Spin Solid versus Magnetic Charge Ordered State in Artificial Honeycomb Lattice of Connected Elements," were published in Advanced Electronic Materials and Advanced Science, respectively.

Explore further: Switching element made of Cr2O3 may yield smaller, more energy-efficient memory for computers and flash drives

More information: Brock Summers et al. Magnetic Diode Behavior at Room Temperature in 2D Honeycombs, Advanced Electronic Materials (2018). DOI: 10.1002/aelm.201700500

Artur Glavic et al. Spin Solid versus Magnetic Charge Ordered State in Artificial Honeycomb Lattice of Connected Elements, Advanced Science (2018). DOI: 10.1002/advs.201700856

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5 / 5 (1) May 16, 2018
This seems to be a pretty poor article. There's no battery tech breakthrough here. As best I can figure, they've come up with a magnetic diode which cuts switching losses. OK, very cool. They imply this increases battery life, but what it really seems to do is decrease power consumption irrespective of power source. I think this would matter for not only battery devices, but it would be a huge power savings for server farms as well! I don't see how that's going to reduce power use by 100x. If this technology allows a fundamental improvement in the transistors used on-chip, then they might have something. However, making transistors with a honeycomb pattern at the sizes of today's chip features seems unlikely. They would be too big? Am I missing something? (Haven't had a chance to read the paper.)
not rated yet May 16, 2018
The power converters, amplifiers and switching circuits are already quite efficient. They're certainly not 1% efficient as the 100x argument would imply, but more like 70-80% efficient and the improvement there isn't going to be more than a third more runtime.

But, as the display and the radios use the vast majority of power anyhow, and you can't reduce the light output or the radio signal, there's even less to be gained simply by changing the switching elements to more efficient ones.

In reality, you're looking at some single percentage points of improvement.
not rated yet May 16, 2018
What's the voltage drop ? If less than basic P-N's 0.7 V or an expensive Schottky's 0.2~0.4 V without the complexity of a diode-wired CMOS device, it may save essential 'micro-power' per device.
not rated yet May 17, 2018
it may save essential 'micro-power' per device.

Only in very simple devices built out of a minimal number of compoents. High efficiency electronics use active switching, so the forward drop over the rectifying component is essentially zero or just few millivolts. There the energy loss is dominated by the gate capacitance of the switching device, which scales with how much power you're trying to handle.

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