Power Electronics

European Union Research Initiative for Cutting Standby Power Consumption

Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and IBM announced a major research initiative, with several leading academic and corporate research organizations across Europe, to address the alarming growth of energy consumption by electronic devices, ranging from mobile phones to laptops to televisions to supercomputers. The research project, called Steeper, aims to increase the energy efficiency of these devices, when active, by 10 times and virtually eliminate power consumption when they are in passive or standby mode.

Coordinated by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Project Steeper includes leading corporate research organizations IBM Research - Zurich, Infineon and GLOBALFOUNDRIES*, large research institutes CEA-LETI and Forschungszentrum Julich, academic partners, University of Bologna, University of Dortmund, University of Udine and the University of Pisa and the managerial support of SCIPROM.

Scientists collaborating on the project will apply their expertise and research to tunnel field effect transistors (TFETs) and semiconducting nanowires to improve the efficient use of energy in electronics. To explain the challenge, consider a leaky water faucet -- even after closing the valve as far as possible water continues to drip -- this is similar to today's transistor, in that energy is constantly "leaking" or being lost or wasted in the off-state. In Steeper, scientists not only hope to contain the leak by using a new method to close the valve or gate of the transistor more tightly, but also open and close the gate for maximum current flow with less turns, i.e. less voltage for maximum efficiency.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), electronic devices currently account for 15 percent of household electricity consumption, and energy consumed by information and communications technologies as well as consumer electronics will double by 2022 and triple by 2030 to 1,700 Terawatt hours -- this is equal to entire total residential electricity consumption of the United States and Japan in 2009.

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