Researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Cardiff have created an amplifier that works at 50% efficiency – substantially higher than the current standard which is 30%.
The breakthrough, they say, could deliver a 200MW cut in the load on UK power stations, reducing CO2 emissions by around 0.5million tonnes per year. Currently, a 40W transmitter in a phone mast's base station requires just over 130W of power to amplify signals and send them wirelessly to people's mobiles. The new design, however, enables the transmitter to work effectively while using just 80W of power. If 10,000 base stations in the UK were fitted with the new amplifier, it is estimated that the total saving would amount to half the output of a mid-size, 400MW power station. The breakthrough was made possible via sophisticated new computing algorithms and a built-in electronic management system. The researchers also made a number of adjustments to the amplifier hardware. Project leader Dr Kevin Morris, from the University of Bristol's Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, said: "This new amplifier design represents a step change in energy efficiency that could make a really valuable contribution to meeting the UK's carbon reduction targets." "Traditionally, designing signal amplifiers for base stations has been a long, complex process involving a trial and error approach and producing one-off solutions. This has fuelled a reluctance to develop new amplifier designs. To get over that barrier, we've made it a priority to ensure our design is easily replicable." The team is now working with a major electronics company to take some of the project's key findings towards commercialisation. Funding has been secured from the EPSRC.