Creating Cooler and Smaller Power Supplies

Over the last 20 years of working in electronics distribution, I have seen product become smaller and smaller while their abilities have grown larger and larger.  At the same time, I have seen electronics become more reliant on battery power.  Battery power is needed to support not only the processor but also the LCD screen, peripherals, and sensors.

An example is to compare my very first computer, a Tandy 3000, to my current cellphone, a Samsung S8. When the Tandy 3000 came out it was high tech, it contained a state-of-the-art 16-bit processor but was small enough to sit on a desktop. There was a standalone monitor and huge fans to displace the heat that it produced. Both the computer and monitor needed their own power supply and each was larger than a brick.  By today’s standards this computer is a relic.  My S8 has a 64-bit CPU, fits in the palm of my hand, and doesn’t require large fans trying to keep it cool.  The phone has an integrated screen, camera, GPS, wireless capabilities, and can run a word processor faster than the Tandy, while only using a battery the size of a business card as its power source.

This makes me ask three questions:

  1. How does product keep getting smaller?
  2. What happened to the fans?
  3. How does a battery convert all the power needed to run each of the components that is integrated in product?

I came across this blog, entitled Meeting Big Demands for Power in Small Devices, from Maxim Integrated that answers some of my questions and offers a solution for cooler and smaller power designs.

About this author

Jason Gums, Product Manager-Semiconductors at Digi-Key Electronics, has specialized in analog, power, and IoT technologies for the past 6 years. He has over 19 years of experience at Digi-Key, including working in the Application Engineering and Customer Service departments. In his spare time, Jason mentors a youth robotic competitive team and is working toward completing his business degree.
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