These days the biggest part of a smartphone is the screen, followed by the antenna. But a group of scientists at the University of Michigan are looking to change that: They've developed a hemispherical shaped transmitter that can is smaller and more efficient than the current multidirectional antenna design.

Anthony Grbic, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and Stephen Forrest, a professor of materials science and engineering and physics, led the development of the dome-shaped antenna. The prototype antenna operates at 1.5GHz on frequency bands used by Wi-Fi as well as cordless and mobile phones.

The researchers claim their antenna is three times more conductive, 70-percent efficient and ten times smaller than conventional transmitters. The circular antenna is also cheaper and faster to manufacture, using a imprint processing technique.

“It can be used to fabricate antennas that are of a wide variety of sizes, shapes, frequencies and designs,” Pfeiffer said in the press release. “Basically if you tell me the data rate that is required for a particular application, I can make an antenna that does this while at the same time being as small as possible.”

So the next time you wonder whether companies can make smartphones any thinner, I think you now know that the answer is "yes".

Image courtesy of Carl Pfeiffer