Cheaper yet more powerful, smarter, smaller and more user-friendly – few sectors are developing at such breathtaking speed as mobile telephones and the technology behind them. Ever increasing data transmission rates call for new ways of reducing energy consumption per data bit sent or received – for two reasons: first, to save energy, and second to avoid thermal issues, such as the mobile phone overheating.
A race against time
Scientists and developers have to prepare well ahead of time. "Years in advance, we consider the requirements that future mobile phone generations will have to meet; we try to anticipate the development of user demands and think about what will be technically feasible", says Gernot Kubin, Head of the Signal Processing and Speech Communication Laboratory at Graz University of Technology. The "Dragon" EU project kicked off in 2009 with the aim of developing new design methodologies, innovative systems and circuit solutions for mobile phone systems in the nano-range. "Four years ago, we started to plan the concrete solutions that will be required as from 2015 and defined by the international standardisation authorities. The people involved in the project worked towards a standard that has yet to be finalised", Kubin says, explaining the challenges.
Battery performance instead of blazing mobiles
The priority for the scientists from Graz – besides the department of Graz University of Technology, FTW Graz, a competence centre with TU Graz participation was also involved – was the transmitter unit, and in particular architecture, chip design and components. "Flexibility is of the essence here. Simple implementation in future, new semi-conductor technologies are a general objective of all developments in the field of mobile telephony – otherwise innovations will turn out to be short-lived", Kubin says. The group of Graz-based scientists managed to meet all of the Dragon project's scientific objectives. A reduced number of individual components in the transmitting unit allows more flexible and more favourably priced production, while at the same time facilitating the digitisation of a greater number of functionalities that can in future be transferred to even smaller chips. "Our main focus was on energy efficiency to boost battery performance. The systems we've developed for the transmitting units of future mobile phone generations mean that the mobile phone won't get so hot any more – which in turn means extended battery life and no loss of energy. And your ears will stay cool", says Christian Vogel of FTW Graz.
European "dragon" in Graz
Two young scientists, Katharina Hausmair and Shuli Chi, took part in the project within the framework of their doctoral theses at the Institute for Signal Processing and Speech Communication. "Dragon" stands for Design methods for Radio Architectures GOing Nanoscale and was funded under the Seventh EU Framework Programme from 2009 until summer 2013; the project was coordinated by Technikon Forschungs- und Planungsgesellschaft in Villach, Carinthia. In addition to Graz University of Technology and FTW Graz, other partners in the project included Ericsson, Infineon Technologies, the universities of Lund and Leuven and the Belgian imec research institute. Cooperation was particularly close between the Signal Processing and Speech Communication Laboratory of Graz University of Technology and FTW Graz. The COMET K1 Centre "Telecommunications Research Center Vienna" established a successful branch in Graz in part thanks to its involvement in "Dragon".
Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Gernot Kubin
Signal Processing and Speech Communication Laboratory
Tel.: +43 (0) 316 873 4430
Mobile: +43 (0) 699 1072 1996
Priv.-Doz. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Christian Vogel
Telecommunicaion Research Centre Vienna
Tel +43 (0) 316 873 4383
Mobile +43 (0) 664 8269862