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Dual Antennas Would Boost Cell-Phone Signals

By Technology Review

August 12, 2010

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The recent furor over the iPhone 4's antenna has made consumers aware of the constraints designers face when trying to build sleek, compact gadgets that also get a good connection. Researchers at Rice University have come up with a design that could make signal worries a thing of the past, and extend battery life as well. The design uses two antennas that focus their power in different directions.

The antenna in your current cell phone beams a signal out in every direction. "Only a tiny fraction of that energy actually reaches the base station," says Lin Zhong, whose research group investigates ways to make computing devices more efficient. Not only is this a waste of a cell phone's battery life, he says, but it creates unnecessary interference for other users.

Antennas that beam out energy in a narrower band can be more efficient. Cell towers use this tactic, with several antennas pointing in different directions to better serve users. Zhong's group has developed a prototype antenna system that could give that ability to cell phones themselves, saving energy and extending battery life.

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