Our smartphones are smarter than ever, except for one very inconvenient Achilles heel: They suck up a ton of power and require obnoxiously frequent recharging. But here's some good news: We may be on the verge of a new era, one in which our smartphones (and the crazy sci-fi wearables that take their place in the future) only need to be recharged every few months.
Sounds dreamy, right? Some heroic researchers at the University of Michigan and Cornell have engineered a special material called "magnetoelectric multiferroic," which has hugely exciting potential for environmentalists and tech manufacturers alike. It will allow computers of the future to operate using just a few quick pulses of electricity rather than a constant stream, like the semiconductor-based devices we currently use. Translation: Our computers and smartphones will require 100 times less energy to run, and will last much, much longer before they need a recharge.
The nitty-gritty science behind the development (which is outlined in a recently published study) would require a PhD in physics to fully understand, but basically, the material "sandwiches" together individual layers of atoms to produce a thin, magnetically polar film that can be switched from negative to positive using a tiny pulse of energy. Yeah, it's complicated.
What's more important to understand, however, is that this unique ability could be used to send and receive the streams of 1s and 0s -- that code that fundamentally controls computers -- far more efficiently. In other words, computers, smartphones, and similar devices could read and write data (i.e., perform their most critical functions) with just a trickle of power, and a full charge of your iPhone's battery could potentially keep it juiced for three freaking months.
One of the lead researchers on the project believes we're still a few years from seeing a viable device made with this stuff, but it's still an incredibly encouraging prospect considering it's estimated that by 2030, electronics could account for half of global energy consumption.
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