Nanusens’ Compact Sensor Technology Significantly Increases the Operational Life of Earbuds

Nanusens has announced that its advanced proprietary technology can considerably improve the battery life of earbuds by around 20%. The company is the pioneer of sensors integrated within CMOS.

This innovation can be realized by using a multi-sensor chip solution, which is around 10 times smaller, in the place of the MEMS sensors normally integrated into an earbud. This will free up enough space to accommodate larger batteries. This innovative technology solution will be announced by Nanusens at MWC 2019 in Barcelona, Spain on booth 6M14 in Hall 6.

A micro electro mechanical systems, or MEMS, sensor package typically includes a chip equipped with the MEMS sensor—which is made on the nanoscale—as well as a chip equipped with the control electronics leading to a volume of 4 mm3.

Nanusens’ sensors are developed on the microscopic scale inside the layers of its CMOS chip, also featuring the control electronics. Consequently, the Nano Electro Mechanical Systems (NEMS) chip measures just 1 mm3 and hence, this will generate a saving of 3 mm3 for each MEMS package that it substitutes.

The more MEMS packages are substituted and their functions performed by Nanusens' multi-sensor chip, the greater the space savings. In addition, the Nanusens chip only improves somewhat with each extra sensor function to accommodate more control electronics. Moreover, when compared to the PCB estate needed for a number of MEMS packages, relatively less PCB estate is required for the single, tiny chip solution. This entire freed-up space can be utilized for increasing the battery size or adding a supercapacitor to prolong the life of the battery to allow an improved user experience—a fact that would be very significant for earbud manufacturers.

We are in a unique position of being able to provide more space inside earbuds for designers to use as they wish with our nano-sensors. 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™.

Dr Josep Montanyà, CEO, Nanusens.

The present earbud market is pegged at 50 million units per annum and this is projected to grow quite rapidly. The main driver is manufacturers who are eliminating bulky and thick headphone sockets from their cell phone designs, as this will allow them to adopt thinner mobile phone designs that have additional space for the battery and other extra features.

New smartphone sales are forecast to be 1.5 billion units a year so as more and more start to ship with a pair of earbuds, our total available market is phenomenal, which is why this is our first target market,” Dr Montanyà said.

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,” added Dr Montanyà. “Awareness of a means to significantly increase the battery life of earbuds by the phone and earbud manufacturers will create the pull through the value chain to the Bluetooth chips manufacturers. The latter provide example designs for earbuds that are often used throughout the industry so we are targeting to be in these designs.”

Nanusens’ first product will be a 2D motion detector designed for earbuds in the fourth quarter of  2019. This detector can be utilized for implementing sleep-on-rest functions, wake-on-movement, tap and double tap for control, and a 3D accelerometer afterward. The next technology to be incorporated into the single-chip solution is a bone conduction sensor designed to cancel noise. Chips will come in a compact package like WLCSP or even as a bare die that can be directly fixed to the PCB.

Our nano-sensor technology is very adaptable so we will be using it to create a range of other sensors. These can be created at the same time in the same chip so many different types of sensors can be built into a tiny multi-sensor solution without taking up more space. This provides companies with a roadmap of exciting additional features to enhance the user experience such as controlling the earbuds with head gesture recognition. Our nano-sensors offer a unique combination of significantly smaller solutions, lower power needs, ruggedness, and multi-functionality in a single integrated chip so, after earbuds, we will be bringing our multi-sensor nano-solutions to the wearables and IoT markets.

Dr Josep Montanyà, CEO, Nanusens.

Nanusens nano-sensor technology

Generally, costly proprietary processes are used to develop MEMS sensors. The advanced multi-patent-pending technology from Nanusens allows it to produce nano-sensors into the CMOS layers utilizing regular CMOS processes within the same production flow as the remaining production of chips.

This novel method decreases both cost and size of the sensors. According to Nanusens, its disruptive technology will redefine the sensor market and fulfill the ubiquitous need for relatively low cost sensors in IoT devices, smartphones, and wearable technology that has already transformed sensors as a multi-billion-dollar sector since they offer the critical interface between the electronics and the real world.

This new technology at the nanoscale means that it consumes very less power. Significantly for a sensor in a device that is liable to be dropped, the NEMS design is more reliable and rugged when compared to MEMS designs.

How the Nanusens sensors are made using standard CMOS processes

Utilizing vapor HF (vHF), the Inter Metal Dielectric (IMD) is etched away via the pad openings in the passivation layer to produce the nano-sensor structures. Subsequently, the holes are closed and the chip is packaged as required. Given that only normal CMOS processes with the least post-processing are employed and the sensors can be incorporated directly with active circuitry as needed, the sensors can possibly have high yields akin to CMOS devices. This also implies that the production is independent of fab.

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