Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Texas Instruments have developed a chip that's up to 10 times more energy-efficient than those used in current mobile phones.
The technology could be put to use in mobile devices, as well as implantable medical devices and sensors to extend the life of the portable device longer than if it was battery-charged, researchers say.
Successfully designing such an energy-efficient chip required the researchers to find ways to make the circuits on the chip work at a lower voltage level than usual, said MIT professor Anantha Chandrakasan.
Chandrakasan said reducing the operating voltage represented a challenge because existing microchips have been built to operate at a higher standard voltage level.
"Memory and logic circuits have to be redesigned to operate at very low power supply voltages," he said.
The power supply voltage requirements are designed to be so low, MIT and TI say, that implantable medical devices could be powered by 'ambient energy', or in layman's terms, by using the body's own heat or movement to provide the power.
Commercial applications of the chip technology in mobile phones, medical devices or military applications that require self-contained sensor networks in the battlefield could be available in five years or sooner, Chandrakasan said.
The research team also had to take into account typical variations in chip manufacturing, which would impact the levels of voltage the chip needs to operate efficiently. "Designing the chip to minimise its vulnerability to such variations is a big part of our strategy," Chandrakasan said.
The chip is a proof of concept and is being presented this week at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco by Joyce Kwong, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Intel, AMD and others have been racing to deliver more energy efficient chips, and Intel recently had one of its claims challenged.
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