This Cheap Little Circuit Could Make Your Next Phone's Data Twice as Fast

By Adam Clark Estes on at

Wireless technology is already amazing. But some exciting innovations are hiding on the horizon. This cheap little circuit that allows a wireless antenna to send and receive data at the same time is one of them. It stands to double the rate at which your phone transfers data.

Until now, smaller wireless devices like laptops and smartphones have been stuck using radios that send and receive data separately. Otherwise, the device can get confused about which signal is coming and which is going. More sophisticated devices like radar systems use huge, strong magnets made from rare earth metals (read: real expensive metals) as a circulator to filter the signals as they come and go.

A research team from the University of Texas recently created a simple circuit out of inexpensive materials that can do the same thing. It mimics the behaviour of the magnets in conventional circulators with the help of resonators that steer the signals in the right direction so that the antenna can send and receive data at the same time, a process known as full-duplex communication. No expensive rare earth magnets required.

"It's ideal for a [mobile] phone," Andrea Alú, the UT professor who led the research. "This is just a standalone piece of hardware you put behind your antenna."

Outfitting a wireless device with this new technology wouldn't require all new guts. It's something phone manufacturers should be able to add right on. Right now the prototype is two centimetres wide, but the research team says they'll be able to shrink it down to a few microns. This simple implementation improves upon similar circulator technology that uses both software and hardware to solve the problem.

Of course the biggest question is when it will trickle down to you. Right now it is unclear, these new circulators are so cheap and compact — not to mention easy to implement — so things look promising. As such, the Texas researchers are actively working on commercialising the design. [Univ. of Texas via Tech Review]

Image via Univ. of Texas