Thursday, March 08, 2007

The View From the Bottom

Several organizations are working to produce efficient technology at fairly basic levels - the part, the chip, the protocol. Some of the work, such as IBM's constructural theory or reversible computing in general, is still highly theoretical. Others have come off the drawing board and are actually being built.At the PC level, one of the most inefficient parts is the power supply. ColdWatt is taking the issue head on and now vending power-efficient power supplies, which generate 45 percent less heat (the key) than a typical supply. After taking into account the cost of cooling, installing these babies results in a 30 percent reduction in energy use per machine.

At the chip level, carbon based computing is coming into its own as a possibility to replace silicon chips. According to the article, silicon has been pushed to its limit, with around 45 nanometer pathways. This results in large leakage losses as electrons 'jump their tracks' and go to ground. Carbon computing could get the pathway size down to 12 nanometers, and would also be more reliable - see it in a decade or two. For the real world, chip maker VIA is pretty much out in the lead for turning out the most efficient processor available.

Finally, some folks are redesigning the communication protocols themselves to be more efficient. The Institute of Electronics and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) now have an Energy-Efficient Ethernet study group in place. It's technical, but bottom line it's going to save $450 million in the US alone. We also got people working on the protocols for wildlife tracking devices to maximize battery life out in the elements. Caribou not withstanding, I'm sure theres some spillover to other industries.

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