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Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Semiconductor Thermoelectric Module Charger for Mobile Computing Device", for Approval

July 16, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- From Washington, D.C., VerticalNews journalists report that a patent application by the inventor Sun, Xiang (Shenzhen, CN), filed on December 20, 2012, was made available online on July 3, 2014.

The patent's assignee is Nvidia Corporation.

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The density and speed of integrated circuit elements have steadily and exponentially increased for several decades, allowing for ever faster processing speeds, greater data handling capabilities, increasing storage capacity, and smaller physical dimensions. However, despite the low-power circuit designs as well as many other power reduction techniques conventionally employed in the electronics today, the density and computing power of integrated circuits are limited primarily by power dissipation concerns.

"During operation of a semiconductor chip, a considerable portion of electrical energy consumed by the chip is converted into unwanted thermal energy, mainly by the internal resistances of the circuits, accounting for possible rising temperatures of the chip, e.g. rising from room temperature to around 65.about.100.degree. C. The issue is especially prominent for multi-core chips that are widely used in smartphones or tablets. A multi-core device is intended to undertake heavy system loads for long working periods, which consumes high power and produces proportionally high thermal energy. The temperature increase can cause reliability issues or even premature failure of a computing device because the integrated circuit elements are designed to operate best at relatively low temperatures. At an elevated operating temperature, electrical signal transmission speeds are slowed down and a chip's operation characteristic may deteriorate over time, thereby resulting in a reduced device lifetime.

"Thus, computing devices and included circuitry typically should be maintained at a relatively low temperature to achieve optimal performance, improve reliability and prevent premature failure. The prevalent approach is to dissipate the heat generated inside the device to the ambient environment, for instance, by a heat sink and/or a fan installed in the device. However, in mobile computing devices, such as laptops, PDA, media players, touchpads, smartphones, etc., it is difficult to employ a sufficiently efficient heat sink or create a heat radiating environment at system level due to the constraints of limited spaces.

"Furthermore, the generation of thermal energy unfortunately constitutes a waste of valuable power supplied by the slim battery typically fitted in a mobile computing device. With the functions of mobile computing devices increasingly expanded and refined, users have demanded longer continuous runtimes of mobile devices. Thus, the operating lifetime of a battery has become one of the critical features of such products as it determines the utility of the mobile device in the normal situation where wall power is not easily accessible."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent application: "Therefore, it would be advantageous to provide a mechanism to efficiently maintain low operating temperatures of an electronic device. It would be also advantageous to improve overall power consuming efficiency of a mobile computing device. Embodiments of the present disclosure provide theses advantages.

"Accordingly, embodiments of the present disclosure provide a mechanism to absorb the unwanted thermal energy of an electronic device and recycle it back into electrical energy that is usable to power the device, thereby increasing power efficiency. Embodiments of the present disclosure advantageously employ a thermoelectric module coupled with a rechargeable battery through a charging circuit. The thermoelectric module is capable of sensing and converting thermal energy released from a heat generating component into electrical energy, and advantageously charging the rechargeable battery with the converted electrical energy.

"In one embodiment of the present disclosure, a computing system comprises a heat generating component operable to release thermal energy during operation thereof, and a battery system comprising a thermoelectric module operable to sense the released thermal energy, and further operable to convert it into converted electrical energy. The thermoelectric module comprises at least one thermal electrical material selected from a group consisting of Bi.sub.2Te.sub.3, Bi.sub.2Se.sub.3, PbTe and alloys thereof. The battery system further comprises a rechargeable battery coupled to the thermoelectric module through a charging circuit, to supply power to the mobile computing system. The charging circuit is operable to activate or deactivate charging the rechargeable battery with the converted electrical energy.

"In another embodiment of the present disclosure, a power source for supplying power to a mobile computing system comprises a rechargeable battery, an internal charging circuit, and a thermoelectric battery comprising a first and a second surface, all coupled to each other. The thermoelectric battery is operable to sense a temperature difference between two surfaces, generate electrical energy in response thereto, and charge the rechargeable battery with the generated electrical energy through the internal charging circuit. The thermoelectric battery comprises at least one thermal electrical material selected from a group consisting of Bi.sub.2Te.sub.3, Bi.sub.2Se.sub.3, PbTe and alloys thereof. The first and the second surface may be disposed proximate to a core chip and an exterior housing member, respectively. The internal charging circuit may comprise charging control logic operable to: 1) active charging the rechargeable battery with the generated electrical energy when the temperature difference is above a threshold; and 2) deactivate the charging when the rechargeable battery is determined to be sufficiently charged.

"In another embodiment of the present disclosure, a method for supplying power to a mobile computing system comprises: 1) sensing a thermal energy generated by operation of said mobile computing system; 2) converting the sensed thermal energy into an electrical current; and 3) charging a rechargeable battery with the electrical current. The rechargeable battery is operable to supply power demanded by the mobile computing system. Converting the thermal energy into electrical current comprises creating a voltage difference and producing a current in response. The method may further comprise activating the charging when the voltage difference is above a threshold value, and/or deactivating the charging when the rechargeable battery is determined to be sufficiently charged.

"The foregoing is a summary and thus contains, by necessity, simplifications, generalizations and omissions of detail; consequently, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the summary is illustrative only and is not intended to be in any way limiting. Other aspects, inventive features, and advantages of the present invention, as defined solely by the claims, will become apparent in the non-limiting detailed description set forth below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"Embodiments of the present disclosure will be better understood from a reading of the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawing figures in which like reference characters designate like elements and in which:

"FIG. 1 illustrates a configuration of an exemplary battery system that comprises a thermoelectric module and a rechargeable battery in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

"FIG. 2 is a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary process for recycling thermal energy back into electrical energy in a mobile computing system by using a thermoelectric module and a rechargeable battery in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

"FIG. 3 is a functional block diagram illustrating the configuration of a mobile computing device that comprises two thermoelectric module coupled with other functional components in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure."

For additional information on this patent application, see: Sun, Xiang. Semiconductor Thermoelectric Module Charger for Mobile Computing Device. Filed December 20, 2012 and posted July 3, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=5996&p=120&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140626.PD.&OS=PD/20140626&RS=PD/20140626

Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Semiconductor, Nvidia Corporation.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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