Souped-up silicon chips help cellphones run better on 5G tech

Mobile phones and other gadgets on the market tend to overheat and shut down after running on a 5G network for a short time, as they cannot supply the large amount of power needed for 5G, but the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology has
Mobile phones and other gadgets on the market tend to overheat and shut down after running on a 5G network for a short time, as they cannot supply the large amount of power needed for 5G, but the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology has found a way to make them more energy-efficient.PHOTO: SINGTEL

By next year, new gadgets such as laptops, wearables and mobile phones might finally be able to run on 5G technology without busting the battery.

Currently, devices on the market tend to overheat and shut down after running on a 5G network for a short time, as the devices cannot supply the large amount of power needed for 5G.

The game is set to change, however, with local scientists coming up with the technology to make the gadgets more energy-efficient.

The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (Smart), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's research enterprise in Singapore, has succeeded in integrating high-performance III-V semiconductors into silicon chips used in mobile devices.

The semiconductors, needed to power higher-performance features in gadgets such as running on 5G networks, come in packages separate from the silicon chips in current devices.

But having them separate from the silicon chips means that there is high energy loss, making the gadgets energy-inefficient.

Smart has found a way to incorporate the semiconductor chips into the silicon chips after years of research.

This helps to make the gadget more energy-efficient. It also means more semiconductor chips can fit in a typical mobile device.

This new process also uses existing manufacturing tools, said Smart chief executive and MIT professor Eugene Fitzgerald.

This means semiconductor manufacturers in Singapore and around the world can pick up the technology easily with equipment they already have, he added.

Professor Fitzgerald said that the commercially viable manufacturing process will make integrated silicon chips available by next year.

Associate Professor Foo Yong Lim of the engineering cluster at the Singapore Institute of Technology said there has been intensive research on III-V semiconductors integrated into silicon chips due to technological and economic interest.

Apart from mobile devices, the integrated chips can also be used in light-emitting diodes and wearable devices.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2019, with the headline 'Souped-up silicon chips help cellphones run better on 5G tech'. Print Edition | Subscribe