British startup Nanusens has developed a way to increase the operational life of earbuds by up to 20%. Its researchers replaced MEMS sensors in an earbud with a single multi-sensor chip that’s up to ten times smaller, freeing up space for larger batteries.
Nanusens creates its sensors within the layers of the CMOS chip that also has the control electronics. As a result, the NEMS (Nano Electro Mechanical Systems) chip is only one cubic millimetre, creating a saving of three cubic millimetres for every MEMS package that it replaces. In addition, the tiny single-chip solution needs far less PCB space than other MEMS packages.
“While some manufacturers want more battery life by using a larger battery or a supercapacitor, others want to use some of this freed-up space for features such as memory so that songs can be stored locally on the earbud. This is another way to extend the battery life as songs would not need to streamed over Bluetooth, again giving longer audio on the go,” said Dr Josep Montanyà, Nanusens’s CEO.
The current earbud market is 50 million units a year and this is forecast to grow extremely fast. The key driver is manufacturers removing thick, bulky headphone sockets from their mobile phone designs, so that they can have thinner phone designs with more space for the battery and additional features.
“We have started discussions with the leading players in the value chain to make them aware of our innovative technology so that they can start the design-in process,” said Dr Montanyà.
The first product from Nanusens will be a 2D motion detector for earbuds in Q4 2019, which can be used to implement tap and double tap for control, wake-on-movement and sleep-on-rest functions, and, soon after, a 3D accelerometer. A bone conduction sensor for noise cancellation is next to be integrated into the single chip solution. Chips will be available in a small package such as WLCSP or as bare die that can be attached directly to the PCB.
“Our nano-sensor technology is very adaptable so we will be using it to create a range of other sensors,” added Dr Montanyà.